Online Safety for Children
Keeping Children Safe
Even very young children are accessing digital media both at home and in the early years provision, using, for example, iPhones, tablets, laptops and game consoles - technology has transformed how we live and how we spend our leisure time. As early years providers we want the children in our care to be safe online.
The advantages of allowing children supervised and time-limited access to the internet far outweigh the disadvantages as long as risks are recognised and well managed.
Technology that might be used with children in the provision includes:
- Paint program to draw pictures on the laptop
- Playing matching and sorting games on early years websites
- Reading a touchscreen story together
- Accessing Wikipedia for Schools or National Geographic for Kids to look up information
- Using maths apps together.
The main risks to children include:
- Physical injury – for example, eye strain and finger / thumb damage, neck and shoulder pain
- Seeing things they should not see – for example, coming across age inappropriate pictures
- Being bullied online – in chatrooms or during online games
- Obesity – lack of exercise due to sitting down too long on digital devices
- Being approached by paedophiles – again in chatrooms and during games
- Exposure to radicalisation and extremism online
Children must be protected online - by closely supervising their online use, teaching them how to hold and use devices safely and enabling parental controls to further keep them safe. Time spent online and using technology should be limited to ensure children access the full curriculum during their day.
It is a requirement of the Ofsted Early Years Inspection handbook that early years providers both keep children safe online and share information about online safety with parents. This requirement is linked to the Prevent duty which aims to protect children from radicalisation and extremism.
The handbook ‘Keeping children safe in education’ explains online radicalisation and extremism well: it states –
‘Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism … the internet and the use of social media in particular has become a major factor in the radicalisation of young people.’
The requirement is further clarified in the handbook ‘Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings’ 08.2016, No. 160047 –
‘Inspectors should consider evidence that: action is taken to ensure that children are taught about safeguarding risks, including online risks.’
Tips for Parents
It is important that parents always know what children are doing online. Dangerous websites, social networking groups and chat rooms should be off-limits to children and software should be installed on internet enabled devices used by children to stop access to inappropriate sites.
The best way to do this is to start by setting clear boundaries – time limiting online use and setting up passwords and parental controls to ensure children cannot access inappropriate sites. Give children their own desktop with a child-friendly browser (for example, Kiddle) and only allow access to apps, games, online TV etc that you have checked first (for example, K9 software).
Parents are advised to share their home technology rules with any relatives who might look after their child – it is important for children that messages they receive are consistent.
When using public WI-FI these might not have parental controls – it is important to be aware of this if children are allowed online eg using an adults’ your tablet or phone while on holiday.
Experts advise that the best prevention to radicalisation and inappropriate use of technology generally is education – talk to the children about how they can stay safe online and make sure they know they can tell an adult if anything worrying happens when they are playing games on the internet. For example, they need to know how to deal with a pop-up (tell an adult who will remove it – don’t click on it) and they need to know how to avoid chatrooms, even if invited by friends.
Children are naturally curious and will push boundaries. Displayed posters can act as a visual reminder but that’s only part of the way early years providers teach children about internet safety – posters become wallpaper after a while. They also need to be reminded regularly that the rules are in place to keep them safe.
If early years providers or parents have any concerns about a child being radicalised or exposed to extremism they must contact the Prevent duty helpline immediately and ask advice.
Technology learning is one small part of an early years curriculum. When used appropriately, it is introduced as part of a wide and varied curriculum alongside all 7 areas of learning to complement each child’s learning in the early years provision and at home. Technology must be used safely – early years providers must protect children from abuse and radicalisation online – information about online safety must be shared parents.
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