This guest blog comes from Councillor Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills.
For many families, access to the internet has been a vital way of keeping children connected to their school and their friends, keeping their learning on track from home, and keeping the whole family entertained while we’ve remained at home. As a class teacher, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have helped me check in with pupils who are learning from home, and to allow them to keep in contact with the children who are attending school in person.
The internet has also been invaluable for sending and hosting resources for children in my class to learn remotely, as well as allowing them to research new ideas and topics to enrich their education and develop and hone new skills.
But while the internet has become a central part of learning in the current context of lockdown, I also know that many parents and carers want to make sure that their children are accessing content that is appropriate and enriching. Many of you may want to know more about how to keep track of what your children access on the internet, and how they can better learn to separate fact from fiction in what they encounter online.
As today is Safer Internet Day, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some tips about how we can help children understand and evaluate what they read and see online, and how we can protect children from harmful content on the Internet.
- Communication is key to helping children understand how to use technology safely. Talking regularly about what sites they visit, who they follow and interact with, and what stories or articles they have read or shared can help open up conversations about the best way to use the internet and social media. The UK Safer Internet Centre has a set of ‘conversation starters’ to help explore these issues with children.
- Setting a good example by not sharing stories that look fake, and talking to your children about how you question and evaluate online content can teach them the importance of not spreading disinformation and understanding how to check stories they may encounter online.
- Check in with children about what they’re seeing online and how what they see makes them feel. It’s easy for all of us to feel bombarded by bad news or confusing content – particularly in the current context. Checking in and reassuring children that they can talk to you about things that upset them can help you feel confident that they’re navigating life online safely and healthily.
The Safer Internet Centre have produced a quiz for children aged 8-13 to help them understand how to separate fact from fiction, and who they can trust online. More support is also available from Childnet International, including advice about how you can report harmful online content, and how you can set up parental controls through your internet provider.
We have also produced challenges, activities and resources to help keep children in Bristol learning and occupied during this time on the We Are Bristol kids website. It includes a Stay At Home Activity Pack, a quiz on Bristol, and even a recipe from Briony from the Great British Bake Off!