With the third lockdown firmly in place and Boris Johnson closing schools again, millions of children have now been told to proceed with online learning. Whether this be classes on Zoom, or using online resources, this means your child will be online a lot more. It is impossible to monitor them all the time and being on the internet can pose some threats. It’s important to educate yourself and your children about the possible dangers online and how to protect them from it. We will go through some of the threats you need to look out for and how to avoid them.
What is Online Learning?
Online learning, also called remote learning or home-schooling, is a method of school on which a child does not enter a school building or have face-to-face contact with a teacher. Your child may have webinars, e-learning, live-streaming or access to downloadable resources. Each school will have a different method when it comes to home schooling, as well as their own unique policies and guidelines for parents and students.
You child might also be using Virtual learning Environments or VLEs, this is an environment where children can access resources remotely, work can be submitted and marked online and can also give your child access to a chat function or messages boards.
What to Consider for Safety
Your child should never sign up for anything online learning related with a personal email address, the school should provide them with a school email address and password.
Make sure your child keeps their school email address and password private, they need to understand that it’s not safe to share these with anyone.
If your child does use a chat function or message board, you need to monitor this frequently. It’s important that your child knows what is and isn’t appropriate to write online; they shouldn’t be sharing any personal information for example.
Your child should also have an understanding of how to conduct themselves online, their behaviour will be monitored and anything deemed inappropriate or of a bullying nature could impact their future at the school.
Several VLEs have a separate app for parents that allow you to monitor what’s happening with your child’s online learning. Familiarise yourself with this, so you can keep track of what your child is doing.
As part of home schooling and online learning, your child may need to make video calls with their teacher, or group video calls with the entire class. Depending on the policy at your child’s school, one-to-one video calls may not be permitted, for staff and student safety.
Safety Considerations for Video Calls
Your child must not put personal details in the user profile part of which ever video call service your school uses. Make sure any location services are switched off.
Make sure you have installed the most recent version of the video call software, and be sure to update if a new version comes out. This means that you won’t have any security flaws in the application.
It’s easy not to, but its good practice to read the terms and conditions of the programs; Zoom, Skype, Teams etc. For example, Skype restricts the privacy settings of any users under 16. Even if you have your own account, make a new one for your child and mark them as under 16 for the protection to apply.
You need to teach your child that they cannot use these video conferencing programs carelessly. Contact from people they don’t know is not allowed, and make sure they know not to download anything from unknown senders.
Your child must never accept; instant messages, phone calls, screen sharing or files from people they don’t know.
You can download parental controls such as Skypito, to monitor and manage who your child communicates with. You can approve all their Skype contacts and even restrict calls and chats.
General internet safety
Given your child will be on a device connected to the internet for most of the day, it is likely they will have access to more than just their online learning platforms. Schools have content filters to make sure pupils can be shielded from inappropriate content, you will need to check your own content filters and restrict anything you feel necessary while your child is home schooling. These aren’t failproof, so you need to teach your child about why certain online interactions and websites are off limits to them. The Department of Justice states that 76% of internet-initiated sex crimes start in a chatroom, so these types of websites need to be on your restricted list.
Whilst being out of school will reduce the risk of your child being bullied in person, they are left vulnerable to cyber bullying. Once again having open communication with your child is the best way forward, teach your child how to effectively handle these sorts of situations. It’s important your child feels comfortable enough to come to you if they experience online bullying. If your child is old enough, you can teach them how to block and report anyone who treats them badly. You can look into software such as LearnSafe that can monitor and detect any online bullying and risky behaviour, if you are very worried.
While installing safety programs and monitoring your child’s activity online is a good way to keep them safe, the most effective method of protection is open communication and education. By educating and talking to your child about the dangers of being online, they can protect themselves and stay safe while they are online learning.