We live in an age where our children are "digital natives". They are growing up with mobile phones, computers, handheld devices etc and therefore are very comfortable and at ease with technology. Although this is a very positive thing, it is important that parents and teachers are aware of the potential pitfalls that come hand in hand with this reality. This page highlights some aspects of technology that should be noted. It is recommended by the experts that no child attending primary school should be the sole owner of a mobile phone.
We ran an 11 week pilot programme last year which made national headlines as it was the first of its kind. This pilot was out of necessity more than anything as cyber bullying was evident and affecting the children’s mood both at home and in school. The children had smartphones and the removal of these smartphones in agreement with the parents led to increased productivity in school, a change in the children’s overall mood and it eradicated cyber bullying.
We are in the process of devising in consultation with the parents an information booklet with a internet and technology use agreement. This booklet will provide assistance for parents around screen time use, security settings on various devices and age restrictions of the most popular applications.
The majority of parents of the children in Blennerville NS are in agreement that children in primary school should not be the sole owners of a smartphone and this therefore eradicates the myriad of problems associated with smart phones.
In October 2018, clinical psychologist David Coleman spoke at our school, addressing parents about Smartphones and web safety. David graciously gave us his time for free, as our school showed such initiative during April and May of 2018, when our school had an 11 week fast from Smartphones for our 6th class pupils. This hit national news and we were delighted to be part of the public awareness campaign on the danger of Smartphones.
Social Networking Websites: Social networking websites such as Snapchat, Facebook etc - In these sites children can search for their friends and communicate with them in various ways - instant text/chat, private messages or comments that everybody in there circle of friends can see. These sites are for children of secondary school age
X box / Nintendo DS etc: These are games consoles that are now able to connect to other people’s games consoles in various ways. Friends can connect to other friends console’s wirelessly and play games against each other. Worryingly, children can use these consoles to play with or against other random people around the world. Players are ranked by their ability and matched with other players in this way. Many games that children play are rated Over 18 so children end up playing with random people of all ages and backgrounds. During these games, the players are able to communicate with each other using text or voice.
Skype / MSN, etc: Skype is a programme for any computer that enables the user to speak and text for free to other users with the programme on their computer. It can also be used to call landlines and mobiles on a prepaid credit system with very cheap rates. It is worth noting that there is an easily accessible setting on skype called “skype me” that when chosen invites strangers to talk / text the user.
Statistics have shown that bullying involving mobile phones and social network sites are on the rise. Some children receive regular nasty texts from other children that may be insulting or threatening. We cannot allow this type of behaviour to develop in our school. It is appropriate that parents should monitor children’s behaviour online and by text just as they do in the “real world.”The potential for abusive behaviour on social networking sites can be even greater than that of mobile phones. When a comment is made on Facebook etc, the comment is often automatically sent to all friends of the user on the site. In this way, nasty comments are seen by everyone and potential for embarrassment etc is greatly increased. Sometimes these comments can be sent from people who have set up fake accounts.
Bear in mind that while your child is online they may be communicating with other users. Sometimes these users are their friends; sometimes these users are random people from around the world that may be much older and less benign than at first obvious.
Insist that you know your child’s username and password for sites that your child uses so that you can check for possible inappropriate use of your child’s accounts.
If your child is using the internet, have the screen positioned so that you can keep an eye over their shoulder regularly. Consider that if your child uses a phone or a games console with internet they may be accessing sites like Facebook regularly during the day.
Also note that it is very easy to create an account on most of these sites/devices using false information. For example, a users profile may say that the user is a 9 years old girl from Ireland but in reality the user could be an adult from anywhere in the world. This happens.
In addition to this, false accounts are sometimes created under the name of other children in a child’s circle of friends to facilitate cyberbullying.
Children should be made aware of the serious nature and traceabilty of cyberbullying. They should be encouraged to look out for each other in this regard and, as with all incidents of bullying, talk to an adult about it if they are being targeted or if they think that somebody else is.
Webwise.ie is a website created by the Department of Education and The National Centre for Technology in Education. It is advisable for parents to take the time to look at their recommendations. Visit webwise.ie
www.internetsafety.ie - Website for the Office of Internet Safety
www.watchyourspace.ie - Advice on managing children's profiles on social networking sites
www.childline.ie - Child Safety Issues