At Zeeko, we continually seek ways to give your students the best possible information about social media and online safety. The online world and the world of social media are forever changing and at a speed that can be difficult to keep up with. It’s our mission to help you as teachers and schools as a whole, to be as informed as you can be despite the fast-paced and time-restricted lives that we now live.
It’s easy for us to create blogs around topics that we hope will be useful for you to educate your students. However, we wanted to take it further this time and get some first-hand information from inside Irish schools. You would be surprised how much time our team spends on the phones to schools nationwide concerning various topics but most predominantly, Internet Safety. We have heard horror stories about conversions and online activities children have innocently or knowingly participated in. Naturally, the classroom is a common place for this to be discussed among peers, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by teachers, principals or other school community members.
Our classroom insider who helped prompt the urgency for this blog is a Principal of an Irish National school. We asked them questions to provide insight into Internet safety within their school and outline the importance of Internet Safety Seminars.
We asked our insider what parents should be aware of regarding Internet safety.
“Teachers should be aware that there are numerous risks such as false/misleading information, cyberbullying, targeted grooming via gaming platforms and that chat rooms are dangerous. Teachers are experiencing a severe lack of attention span among the children in the classrooms, mainly due to lack of sleep due to children reporting being up late gaming on their devices. Controlled screen time is necessary, and parents need to be educated around the plethora of internet safety restrictions that can be put in place on various devices to protect their children’s overall wellbeing ultimately.”
From using the internet as adults, we know it is swarming with false and misleading information. In recent months, we have seen AI technologies advance so much that it is becoming more difficult to determine what is real and what is not. While the likes of advanced AI may not have crossed your path yet, online gaming platforms most certainly have in one way or another. Online gaming can be highly addictive. We’ve explored this in a previous blog; you can read more on online gaming addiction here. Excessive screentime comes with various downsides. Interestingly, it is reflected in the classroom, with teachers reporting an increased lack of attention span.
What internet safety issues are you facing in your school?
“Inappropriate messaging and isolation of peers in online chat rooms via online gaming. Children do not realise that what they type online matters, that written words are hurtful and can be traced back even if deleted. Children cannot link the online virtual world to the real world.”
Inappropriate messaging is rampant throughout the online world and social media. We recently wrote a blog highlighting revenge porn in teenagers and how this is now a massive issue. An issue is so big that it can now result in legal action to protect the attacked person. Inappropriate messaging doesn’t just come in the form of an older man/woman grooming a younger person through chatrooms, our students are so exposed to what is called ‘soft porn’ online that the boundaries are now so blurred for them in relation to what they can deem appropriate in their own minds. It means that boundaries need to be reinforced and almost updated constantly.
Isolation is another vital factor that we are glad our insider highlighted in their answer. Social media and the Internet having been originally designed to keep users connected, one of the major implications of these tools is isolation. Why is this? Social media can create false relationships. Constantly being in contact with people without in-person interaction can cause huge anxiety and a false sense of your actual relationship with a person. This can be very damaging to a children’s mind. Social media also allows people to paint a false picture of their lives, only showing the positive parts of their lives. Children and adults alike are guilty of watching others’ lives and developing a sense of fear or missing out (FOMO). We have a full blog on the extent of FOMO. You can read more here.
What online behaviour/content have your pupils been exposed to that has shocked you?
“I have been shocked by the exposure and self-declaration of pupils engaging with explicit material on Omegle, they couldn’t see the risks associated with conversing with strangers via live video chat.”
It’s alarming how trends start within schools, one student mentions they did something online and tells their peers, and before you know it, the whole class wants to try and share their stories about their experience. This is exactly how word spread about Omegle, as it’s not exactly a broadcasted or advertised site. This platform allows users to join random video chats with strangers worldwide anonymously. Initially created for fun and genuinely connecting people over 18, its lack of age verification enabled anyone to access it easily. While some users of any age might have a normal experience and interact with normal people, the unsettling factor is that they can be met with absolutely anything at the other end of the video call. If you want to learn more about Omegle, you can read our full blog here.
What strategies are you using to address these issues?
“As a school, we engage with Zeeko and host termly internet safety awareness talks for parents and children. We survey pre these talks to establish what specifically our parents want assistance with, and the content is tailored for our school community instead of a generic internet safety talk.”
We understand that, as teachers, you are busy completing curriculums and getting through the school year. Unless internet safety is enforced as a subject, it is difficult to put the ownership on teachers to ensure that internet safety is taught in the classroom. Booking an Internet safety seminar is the best way for the students in your school to be educated on Internet safety. We’ve seen first-hand from our insider that principals and teachers know about the conversations in schools and classrooms, and we can only expect you to do your best to combat issues as they arise. However, it’s not always easy and preventative measures should be in place. We urge you to write down any discussions you hear from your students in the classroom or hallways. Highlight these when you are booking an internet safety seminar so that they can be addressed in the appropriate manner and way.
What must we do as a country to address online issues?
“We need to have a more increased focus on internet safety education and take the fear away that exists through constant education and open, honest communication. Sporadic internet safety awareness days/weeks etc., need to be more. The negative narrative around the internet also needs to be addressed, there are so many educational benefits to accessing the internet safely that parents and children need to be aware of.”
Zeeko Education provides virtual and on-site Internet safety training to suit every school’s needs. Some of our packages also include parent seminars to ensure you are up to date with the most relevant information for your child, their class, and their age group. Our bookings are now open for the next academic year. Slots are filling up for September and October already. If you are a teacher looking to book a seminar, simply fill out the form here.