We need to do more to protect children online in education. However, it is not solely the responsibility of the school to manage the content children access during school hours. Parents, teachers and carers need to work together to understand more about the many dangers lurking online.
Blocking and filtering offensive content by keyword is only part of the answer as radicalisation, online bullying, grooming and harassment offer a persistent threat to the safety of young people online. A multi-pronged approach to Internet safety that includes changes to current legislation, recognition of the mental health timebomb facing children and a new way of protecting children online is needed.
Legislation changes are needed to protect children online
The legislative backdrop is changing due to failures by social media giants who are being urged by the UK Government to do more to protect younger members of society against online threats. The UK Government has challenged the leading social media providers, Facebook, Google and Twitter to ensure more is done to protect underage users of the platforms.
Children between the ages of 10 and 12 are facing significant emotional risks due to social media exposure. Increased levels of anxiety and pressures to maintain their image online is affecting children in their formative years, according to a report commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner.
Gaming addiction is a real threat to children’s mental health
The World Health Organisation has listed ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition, and the NHS is now treating children with gaming addiction. Many parents and teaching professionals are despairing as addictive games such as Fortnite encourage children to stay up well into the night to play with friends online. Lack of sleep and disruption to their daily routine is playing havoc with children’s behaviour, learning and development.
Psychology underpins the entire software industry. App developers and hardware manufacturers deliberately design addictive products, as they know the longer we spend looking at a screen, the more profitable we are. But It is not just children who are at risk, many of us are addicted to our smartphones as we turn to our devices to manage more of our day. A recent report published by industry watchdog Ofcom found that on average, adults check their device every 12 minutes.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real problem, and entire industries are flourishing as vanity and anxiety take control of our lives. An example is the three dots that appear when someone is replying to an iMessage. The dots are designed to heighten anticipation and therefore offer a reward when the reply comes in. The red dots that litter our phone screen are designed to have the same effect, they make us feel good; reinforcing warm and fuzzy feelings of being wanted and liked, engendering a sense of belonging.
In 2015, the BBC published an article citing the Connected Kids report, compiled by Childwise. The report found that children now spend an average of 6.5 hours per day in front of a screen compared to an average of 3.5 hours in 1995. That increase has many experts worried about the detrimental effect on social skills as well as the potential for a future mental health crisis.
Changing online behaviour with Gooseberry Planet
Gooseberry Planet exists solely to protect children in school online. Entrepreneur Stella James founded Gooseberry Planet to address the online security concerns encountered by her children when they attended school.
Based on 50 role-playing games, Gooseberry Planet connects children, parents and teachers via a secure online portal which can be quickly set up and easily monitored. The platform is designed for all children of school age and delivers a holistic approach to online safety. Studies show that providing a one-off assembly is an ineffective method of educating parents, teachers and children about the many dangers that exist online.
Network ROI is delighted to partner with Gooseberry Planet to help deliver a safer and more secure online experience for school children in Scotland and North England. As one of the UK’s top Managed Service Providers, our skilled engineers have years’ worth of experience managing and supporting technology infrastructure for organisations throughout the UK. Our commercial background ensures we deliver an effective and cost-effective service at all times.