Happy New Year!13/01/2023
The spring term has begun and students have settled quickly to their learning routines. There is an air of seriousness and productiveness, particularly amongst our older students who are already preparing for the summer series of exams. We wish them all the very best as they continue to remain focused and prepare in the months ahead.
For Christmas, many students will have received ‘a Fortnite battle pass, a new PC, a new mobile phone, a PlayStation 5 etc’. These are all devices which allow both unfettered access to the internet and expose young people to voice chat, text chat and photo sharing with complete strangers. This year presents an acceleration of vulnerability as VR headsets, connected to Facebook’s Metaverse, have been released onto the marketplace. The Metaverse seeks to link users to the internet as a Virtual Entity through the use of Virtual Reality Headsets. This amplifies the danger young people are exposed to online. To help you understand this new, fast changing technology and to help you keep your children safe online, the NSPCC has published a guide to both the Metaverse and VR headsets. To find out more please follow the link: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/about-us/news-opinion/2022/christmas-vr-safety-advice-for-parentsmetaverse/
Since its release 2017, the battle-royale simulator, Fortnite, has become ubiquitous in schools throughout the world. The game, which features cartoonish characters, bright colours and non-visceral consequencefree violence, has had a mass appeal to young people, with them exposed to multi-player chatting with strangers, and financial exploitation via the game’s spend-to-gain-advantage operating style. From criminal blackmailing, to the coercion of nude exchanges by online ‘friends’ posing as children, the danger this game presents from a safeguarding perspective is clear. Fortunately to allow for greater comprehension, Internetmatters.org has published a guide to understanding the game and its terms. You can find the link below: https://www.internetmatters.org/hub/guidance/fortnite-battle-royal-parents-guidekeep-kids-safe-gaming
Of course, our school policy prohibits the use of this type of technology in school, but we know that many students experience issues as a result of their use of this technology at home or while out and about. This year, please help to keep your children safe on line by considering the following tips:
1. Talk openly with your child about their online activity as soon as they start accessing the internet and keep the conversation going as they grow older. Teach them about their online reputation and ensure they understand the internet isn’t private.
2. Keep screens and devices where you can see them and check browser histories to see what sites they are visiting.
3. Know your parental controls as these can help prevent your child from seeing and accessing violent or sexual material. See https://www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls/.
4. Know who your children’s online friends are and ensure you monitor posts. Consider making this one of the conditions for you to allow them access.
5. Be ‘share aware’ to protect your privacy. For example, encourage your children to ask themselves before posting anything if the information (i.e. name, phone number, home address, email, name of school) or photo is something they would give a stranger. If the answer is no, they should not be posting it.
6. Keep control of your family’s digital footprint. Teach your child to stay in control of their digital footprint, by only sharing with people who they know and trust, rather than posting to all their ‘friends’ on social media.
7. Teach your children to keep their location private by turning off geo-tagging features which make their whereabouts public and can lead someone directly to them.
8. Keep track of online time to ensure young people do not develop bad habits and consider switching off the home Wi-Fi at a set time each evening so everyone has some ‘time-out’ from the internet.
9. Be #SocialNetworkSavvy, and encourage your children to talk about how they can stay safe on social networks. Do they know who their ‘trusted person’ might be for when they are worried, and what constitutes online bullying, both as a perpetrator and a victim?
10. Lead by example, modelling the kind of positive online behaviour you would like your children to use. If they see you being cautious and respectable when you are online, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps.
If you become concerned about your child’s online safety during the course of 2023, please speak to your child’s tutor in the first instance, or contact one of our safeguarding team.
Happy New year!
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