With schools closed and parents working from home, there is no doubt that children are more likely to be using the internet unsupervised and could be vulnerable to cyberbullying and scams.
During lockdown, pupils will spend even more time on their phones, computers, iPads and video games, and while the internet, in general, is a great resource for education and entertainment, it’s important that parents and carers are vigilant when it comes to screen time.
UNICEF states that 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide, while increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying*.
During the national health crisis children are inevitably spending more time online, utilising education platforms, being entertained by the likes of TikTok and YouTube, gaming on XBOX and PlayStation, keeping up with friends over social media platforms, and reuniting with family over Zoom and House Party calls.
At Lomond whilst continuing lessons remotely we have been working with parents and pupils to ensure all virtual communication is conducted in a safe manner with guidance around how to appropriately conduct video calls. Open conversations with children about their activities online are more important than ever, ensuring they have the confidence to confide in parents with any concerns they may have. The reality is cyberbullying and exploitation can happen anywhere and it’s important to note that the risk was of course there before lockdown. With children moving a great deal of interactions to virtual platforms they do however become more vulnerable to the dangers of the internet. To combat this, parents, guardians and carers need to ensure that they know what their child is viewing and who they’re communicating with.
We must all work together, to make it known if a child is dealing with cyberbullying and to resolve the problem if there is one. Children should be aware that the same rules and procedures apply when taking offline situations online and that incidents will be weighted with the same importance and approached accordingly. Just like if there was a social gathering that goes wrong, for example a real house party which gets out of hand, parents should work in partnership with the school to investigate any incidents. As a preventative measure, parents and carers should establish guidelines with their children to communicate boundaries and protocols to make sure kids have clear pathways to report any of their concerns and to have the confidence to do that.
As far as possible it’s good to try to engage in communication which is as ‘close to’ physical contact as possible so instead of a text, a video call feels more personal and engaging – a social experience which they’re not getting as much of whilst being away from the physical school environment.
Although parents are preoccupied with work and home schooling, arguably as we are all at home, it may actually be easier to identify what kids are doing online, how they’re spending their time and who they’re engaging with, optimising online safeguarding to its fullest potential.
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