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COVID19 changed internet safety teaching for schools forever.

Internet Safety Teaching needs changing in Primary Schools

school internet safety, online safety talk for kids
COVID19 has changed the agenda for internet safety for primary schools kids.

The changes needed!

Five years ago, internet safety in schools was all about stranger danger and aimed at 10, 11 and 12-year-olds. The theme was built around stranger danger, connecting with people kids don't know online, cyberbullying on Snapchat. 

  • Be careful about who you are speaking to
  • Never speak to a stranger & never give away any personal details
  • Never agree to meet anyone you met online

These messages are still important, but priorities have changed especially following COVID19. Let's talk about that a little more. School booking enquiry

So how have things changed

  • Five-year-olds now have phones & some even have TikTok
  • Most young children say they are unsupervised online 
  • Since COVID19 gaming has exploded
  • Parents are more concerned about online gaming now than social media.
  • Gaming & Social Media are two different subjects.

Early in the 2020 COVID19 lockdown, we saw a spike in gaming with kids home school online or not attending school at all. Boys used games as a way of staying in touch with friends. Parents were glad just to be left alone to work. Meanwhile, gaming portals Minecraft, Roblox reported use up nearly 80%. Roblox last year in 2020 said sales were around $960 million, an increase from $45 million in 2017. As the kids played more, they became much better at gaming. This caused a whole range of newer problems;

  • Playing games on Public servers & playing with much older kids
  • Excessive loud headphone use
  • DDoS attacks
  • Device and gaming addiction
  • Lack of exercise, 

Social Media issues haven't gone away either

Problems with social media, TikTok hasn't gone away and remains a big concern for parents. This year TikTok made privacy settings mandatory for all users between 13 and 16 years of age. When a company like TikTok does this, you know, it is a major problem. Of course, most people go around age verification lying about their age. Everyone knows TikTok don't enforce age verification, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram don't age verify either. 

The best internet safety for social media is to address the following;

  • Friends not followers
  • Building your profile honestly with real names, real photos
  • Moving past false identities
  • Privacy policy
  • Being respectful, sympathetic to others

Everyone likes to be liked. Everyone loves a good reaction to their Instagram or TikTok posts. It was a clever choice by social media portals to call them followers, not friends. If it is called social media why isn't it about friends? But 10,000 followers is a lot cooler than 45 friends. 

Millions of parents say, there is no way my little Johnny is going online using his real name, photo in Snapchat. No way. Not in a million years. We say build small silos of friends, limit the number of friends, no followers. If Mum does not recognise the friend from their profile, no admission. Regularly inspect the phone. We have seen this approach work. PTAs and teachers could work out how to make this work for everyone.

Facebook says if you have thousands of followers. you are at least seven times more likely to get bullied. Facebook know this from analysing their own Instagram and Facebook users. Facebook also know Instagram is putting enormous pressure on girls to be slim and pretty like Influencers but deny it publically. 

What can schools and parents do to challenge gaming?

The explosion in gaming has bought a new dynamic to gaming issues. Generally, they are not in the school domain unlike social media which causes enormous problems in schools. So it is the parents and possibly the Police, not the school who have to deal with the problem, a relief to school Principals. 

Note: If it gets physical with a child addicted to gaming who will not stop gaming despite being asked a hundred times, you are NOT alone. It is commonplace. It is incredibly stressful and frequently gets nasty and physical.

fortnite, online safety games, internet safety for kids games online
Epic Games produce Fortnite parents are alarmed by its addictive qualities, kids behaviour and its Chinese ownership.

Public Servers & IP Address

Public servers are servers where gamers go to play competition level games with other gamers from all over the world. The game might commence at 7 pm, and play until there is a winner. These servers are built and provided by gaming companies like Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft. So your kid will be playing with strangers, the atmosphere is toxic, and personal abuse is very intensive. 

IP Address is your household connection address for the internet. It is a vital part of your cyber-security and without it, you can not access the net. If you are working from home, this means you can't work except using your phones data plan. Here's the bad news, gaming companies need your IP address to admit your gamer and identify him/her. They also use it to ban your IP address from accessing the game if repeated offences are committed. Other games can also attack your IP address (DDoS attacks) to knock out a gamer to get rid of him. It is a crime that needs to be reported to the Police.  

Warning signs your kid is getting addicted.

If your kid has been playing long hours, with headphones on, they are simply acting out their experiences online where they play with young adults (usually men). 9-year-old  boys (and girls) quickly become aggressive, abusive, unhelpful, sullen, unresponsive. You have to stop them from playing on Public Server games. Easier said than done.

Public server games are rancid environments, overflowing with hate, misogyny, racism, antisemitism. At this point your options are; 

  • A complete ban (cold turkey)
  • Reduced gaming hours
  • Ban using Public Server 
  • Learning to play the game yourself
  • No Headphones on Public Server

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The social media portal TikTok and games Fortnite and League of Legends are Chinese owned. Tencent, the largest IT company in China, owns these two games. In another part of their business, they have contracts with the Chinese Goverment to survey, censor and interfere with data in China. Good reason to spend £50 today on internet safety, anti-virus, anti-ransomware. Buy Now! 

What Schools, PTAs, Principal can do to help

Many will be familiar with the games but know nothing about the game or the main issues. Parental control will enforce rules for you. Norton 360 or Bitdefender Total parental control can stop Roblox, Fortnite from unauthorised use. Norton 360 will send you an email/message to say your kid tried to access a game. 

  • Manage time limits to 60 minutes a day 
  • Shut down these Apps and games for homework 
  • Shut down the phone for bedtime.  
  • iPhone screentime will do some of these for free right now 
  • Youtube videos will show you how.
  • No more arguments

Use technology as the enforcer bad guy so you can be the good guy, occasionally granting extra game time. Telling them more time is a privilege, not a right. 

Switch off In-App purchasing on their phone preventing them 'accidentally' buying in-game currency without asking you first. Roblox usually suggests about $£€40. If a kid comes to ask you to buy Vbucks, you can spend a fiver instead. Nice!

  • School classrooms need to repeat the main messages
  • Respect other gamers
  • Learn to take a break, take exercise
  • Play with friends only
  • Explain why Public servers are not for primary school kids
  • Stay in your lane, there are loads of great games for kids
  • Poll classrooms to see what the popular games are.

See which games are age-appropriate

Check as it lists every game. It describes the nature of the game, shows you the age rates for the game, who publishes the game etc. 

Fortnite could be in the next Olympics.

Serious people say the Olympics need to be where the people are, and the people are playing Fortnite, not 3-day eventing or curling, more boys are not interested in gaming than following a sports team like Manchester United. Sitting they say is the new smoking.

A final thought

Online cyber safety for kids is more nuanced and a wider-ranging subject now. Teachers are very surprised in Sept 2021 with a new school year underway, just how many kids are playing online games. Simple to download, easy to start playing, kids are soon hooked, then they're tempted with purchases they can't resist, just like chocolate. In two short years gaming has moved to be front and center for online safety.

Maybe Social Media and Gaming addiction have now become two separate subjects for school cyber safety programmes. 

Articles of Interest

Kids go around age verification

Five things a child must never share online 

Internet Safety Talks for Kids Aged 6-9

Don't spend a penny on your Kids Online Safety

Internet Safety Tips for Kids Keeping Kids Safe Online 10k + reads

Facebook says kids with
1000s of followers get bullied

Handy Connections

Setting up the right Social Media Profile for Kids

Low-Cost Norton 360 Premium 

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