Robin is seven years old. He has just received his first school email address and his parents have just bought him a brand new iPad for his birthday. He has an older sister who is 15 years old. She spends most evenings on her laptop chatting to her boyfriend, friends and classmates about everything and everyone! He also has an 11 year old brother who spends most of his nights playing on his Playstation 4. Robin’s mother works at a local supermarket where she often has to work the night shift. His father works for Apple – but his job means that he often travels away from home. At Robin’s school they have just begun to experiment with iPads, but they only have a single class set of twenty five for the whole school so Robin has only had a basic tutorial in how to use them. Robin’s teacher, Mr Milton, isn’t really comfortable using iPads, laptops or desktops for teaching and learning; preferring to use more traditional methods.
Robin, who only has a basic understanding of how to connect to the internet using his iPad, takes out his brand new iPad and decides it is time to start his online journey…
So, who is ultimately responsible for Robin’s online safety?
A. The Teacher
Absolutely! Although the teacher may only have a limited understanding of technology and the internet, he has a responsibility to himself and his students to be more proactive in keeping up with current Ed-Tech policies and practice. After all, it is no good burying your head in the sand and pretending that it is somebody else’s job to educate students about the possible dangers of being online.
B. The Parents
Absolutely! Even though the parents are busy with other aspects of their work and family lives they are also responsible for ensuring that their children are connecting to sites that they have personally checked. I also think that it is important for the parents to demonstrate the positivity of being connected and online (which they/we often tend to forget).
A post which gives both teachers and parents a better understanding of online parental needs/concerns came from the commonsense media links attached to Mel Sylvester’s COETAIL post which was recommended to me by Ken Ip (another COETAILer).
C. The Siblings
Absolutely! Who are the biggest educators of younger children in families?
The parents? No!
The older siblings? Yes!
When you were a child, who did you want to emulate? For me it was always the older kids! After all, they are the ones who teach you new tricks, sporting skills, gaming techniques…the fun stuff! Robin’s sister (and probably his brother) should/will have been taught the rudiments of online safety. Not only that, his sister is actually living the online dream. So who better to give him a clearer idea of what he should be doing to stay safe online. I know that a lot of you will be saying ‘But how can we trust a teenager to give our children good advice?’ My reply to this would be ‘If we don’t start to trust this younger generation then what sort of message are we giving them?’
How can I use Robin’s Tale?
While pondering the idea of internet safety and who was responsible for bringing this issue to the attention of younger children I thought that a more real world approach might have the most impact. I have therefore decided to use an edited version of Robin’s Tale as a way of opening up a dialogue, with my class, about online educational responsibility. My hope is that the children will start to generate their own opinions and ideas about who should be giving them online safety guidance and what that guidance should be.
A difference of opinion
As you have already read, I have my opinions and ideas about the people I think are most responsible for needing to provide children with a better understanding of what it means to be safe online. However I believe that the children in my class will have more varied ideas about the people they believe are most responsible for their online safety.
Reversing the roles
I am also considering a home learning activity where the students have to educate their parents on how people can stay safer while they are connected to the internet. After all a bit of role reversal might serve as a good reminder of just how safety conscious their children are when it comes to online connectivity. And who knows. It may help parents and carers to become more aware of how to protect and nurture their own digital footsteps. There is nothing wrong with a gentle nudge towards the big door marked ‘online safety’.