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Schools urged to prioritise online safety for learners



Pupils aged four to 14 should be taught ‘digital citizenship’ to keep them safe online, according to Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England.

In her report Growing up Digital, Ms Longfield says ‘much more needs to be done to create a supportive digital environment for children and young people’.

Children aged three to four spend an average of eight hours 18 minutes a week online – doing activities from watching films to playing games – while 12 to 15-year-olds use the internet for at least 20 hours per week, according to the report.

This ‘explosion’ of time spent online by children has left parents ‘hoping that bad things wouldn't happen’ because they feel they lack the ‘capabilities or the capacity’ to deal with any issues that arise, Ms Longfield said.

She added that children are being left to ‘fend for themselves’ against dangers such as bullying and grooming in the digital world.

“Kids need to be resilient, they need to have the information ready to be able to deal with their time online and know what that means for them and they need to have the power to deal with it themselves,” Ms Longfield said.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said the report shows the need for statutory PSHE, which could encompass digital citizenship lessons.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: "Schools can play a vital role in protecting children in the digital world by teaching them about their rights and responsibilities online.

“PSHE would provide curriculum space for the discussion of a variety of important issues – not just online safety and digital understanding, but also some of the concerns that children might turn to the internet to learn about, like relationships and sexuality.

“It is only by tackling these sometimes difficult subjects that we can imbue children with the resilience and understanding that will prepare them for life in a digital world. The government must back teachers by making PSHE a statutory part of the curriculum.”

ASDAN's PSHE Short Course contains engaging challenges relating to keeping people safe online in the modern world. In the social relationships module, pupils are asked to discuss how social networking sites have changed how people interact and communicate and how this can lead to trolling and cyber-bullying. The flexible PSHE Short Course accredits up to 60 hours of activities and is suitable for pupils of all abilities, mainly aged 13-19.

ASDAN’s Towards Independence programme contains a module on e-safety with sections including keeping personal information safe, safer social networking, safer searching, cyberbullying and sexting. Towards Independence is aimed at post-16 learners with severe, moderate and profound and multiple learning difficulties.

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