September 26, 2006

Primary school internet unsafety

  bebo profile 
  Originally uploaded by podcom.

Yesterday I was out visiting one of our East Lothian primary schools in a small village community, asked to help do a quick 30 minute spin on Internet safety. I knew there would be a limit on what I could do so I got the kids, from Primaries 5 (8/9 years old), 6 (9/10) and 7 (10/11 years) to do all the thinking.

I was keen to see what information they perceived as 'personal', what they would give to a bus driver, a lady on the bus, a teacher, David Beckham, a chatroom friend...

So what info would they give to a chatroom friend?
Primary 5s: First name (or better still a nickname) only
Primary 6s: First name, full name, age, mobile phone number where they live, where their house is... This group also considered (one third of them) meeting up with the other person unaccompanied or accompanied only by a friend. The thought of going along with a teacher or parent made them laugh)
Primary 7s: First name, maybe their age.

I used my time to show why this middle group were maybe not 100% right, using some of the excellent GridClub resources as well as a chat simulation I made up myself.

But it did get me concerned: Why are the Primary 6s so different from the others? Why is it that Primary 6 is where half the class had an MSNSpaces homepage when only one child shared a Bebo page in Primary 5? Is there a link between the concept  of what's 'personal' and 'public' and the regular self-publishing of one's life? Do the parents know about these pages? Do they accompany their child's internet use?

Well, for once, these are not rhetorical questions. I look forward to meeting some of these kids' parents at Family Learning Week to find out what the internet habits of our average 9 year old are like.


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This tends to reflect my own experience of youngsters as they move beyond that period when they don't really use on-line tools very much into the time where they start to live there all the time. What was particularly interesting about your experience this week was the huge change in such a short period of time. It would be good to try repeating it with other communities.

I have found that using Superclubsplus (formerly part of Gridclub) for the last few years has been extremely effective in raising awareness of internet safety at my school. Children can't put a foot wrong or the mediators are on their backs immediately! I'm sure that using this community will make my pupils more safety conscious future bebo users.

Interesting survey Ewan, any idea why the primary 7s were more sensible? More experience? Or just one of those strange blips in comparing classes (it must have been something in the water).
I asked one of our primary seven classes about Bebo and Myspace a couple of weeks ago and none of them had heard of them. A lot more used msn chat.

At first glance, this looks like education is lagging behind the pupils' reality by one year. I'm guessing that by the time they reach P7 someone has spoken to them about Internet safety already.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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