5 Ways to address online safety

Jan. 8, 2019

The internet is brilliant, both for finding useful stuff to communicating with other people. Unfortunately, there are also lots of ways to be unsafe online. There are the “obvious” (to teachers) ones like not publishing personal information online. Did you know, for example, that someone needs only three items of personal information to steal someone’s identity or, in the case of children, find out who they are in the “real world”? You can read a sobering article about it here, and another article listing ten things that can help someone find out an awful lot more about you. Obviously, not all of the things listed will be relevant to children -- driving licence number for example -- but there are plenty that are.

There are some great e-safety materials and guidance ‘out there', many of them being either too difficult for young children to understand or simply too scary. Not to worry though: Purple Mash has a lot of resources that you can use, and which will stimulate your imagination.

Teacher resources

A good place to start is with the resources for teachers. Type “online safety” into the search box in the top right-hand corner, and you’ll see several useful items. There’s the Teacher Online Safety Resources folder, but leave that aside for the time being. Instead, cast your eye to the Support section below, where you will discover Online Safety units for Years 1 to 6, each of which comprises a number of lesson plans. These walk you through ideas for lessons on how to keep safe online.

You’ll be pleased to learn that these all mesh with the 2Simple Computing scheme of work, so by using them you won’t be digressing from the National Curriculum.

Look out for the ones marked ‘New’, even if they have the same name as another one, for obvious reasons.

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Also explore…

A moment ago we encountered a folder called Teacher Online Safety Resources. Now’s a good time to click on that, to see what treasures await us. Look in the section at the top called Teacher Resources.

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One very nice idea is the online safety certificates. These may be earned by pupils who have shown that they understand what behaviours can keep them safe online. The document contains a certificate for each year from 1 to 5. You’ll find each one useful as a guide to what you can reasonably expect children to know, understand and be able to do in this sphere at each age.

Another good resource is the document called Purple Mash and online safety. This is a short (four page) document that gives you an overview of the resources available to you and how you can use them, as well as exploring questions such as when to start talking about copyright, and how digital leaders can assist with online safety education.

Finally, don’t overlook the acceptable use agreements (AUPs) that are not only available for all phases from EYFS to KS2, but even for parents and staff. To find them, just type “AUP” in the search box. By the way, these are interactive PDFs, meaning that you can personalise them with the name of the Computing leader, the name of the member of staff, the date, and even the staff member’s digital signature.

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SMART rules everywhere!

Teachers always do their best to make their classroom a vibrant and stimulating environment, and Purple Mash does not disappoint in this regard. A good way of both reminding pupils of the rules for keeping safe online, and having on hand a resource that can be discussed whenever appropriate, is to have them where the pupils can hardly miss them: on the desktop of their device.

Purple Mash uses the acronym SMART:


● Never Meet

Accepting (as in avoid accepting emails from people you don’t know)

Reliable (information)

Tell (a teacher or adult)

Search in the Teachers Resources option in Purple Mash.

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Also explore…

SMART screensavers. As an alternative to the desktop background, you might decide instead to have a series of screensavers. As you know, these are screens that appear when you haven’t used your computer for a while, and you can set the screen to change every so often. There are five screensavers, each a picture of one of the SMART rules.

You can ask your network administrator or technical support person to set these up for you. On the other hand, if you want to have a go yourself, see the Smart Instructions pdf. This covers both PCs and iPads, but note that you can’t create a changing screensaver on the iPad -- you’ll need to create a slideshow instead.

SMART poster. Children don’t use their device all the time, of course, so it’s a good idea to have something on the classroom wall they can look at. Enter the SMART poster, a colourful document that you can print off. It’s A4 size,but perhaps your school has the facilities to enlarge it to the next size up, A3.

Sharing information in ‘real time’

Everyone loves to share information online, and children are no exception. However, the term “friends” is rather misleading when it comes to social media. Apart from the fact that you often don’t know who these people really are, there is also the issue that while you may think what you say is private, it may very well not be.

A case in point is the horror stories you hear occasionally of someone letting their friends know via social media when they’re having a party, and where. Cue hordes of strangers turning up and, frequently, trashing the family home.

Fortunately, there is, as the saying goes, an app for that. Once again, go into the Teacher Online Safety Resources folder, and select Friendbook Party. This opens with a video of a couple of friends discussing their forthcoming party, the details of which they post on ‘Friendbook’. Needless to say, the information they write is available to all and sundry, not just the people they meant to invite.

After watching the video, the pupils can create a poster outlining the dangers of what they’ve just witnessed. There are prompt words listed to help them structure their thoughts, and clipart with which to illustrate them.

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Also explore…

The Friendbook Party exercise highlights a deeper point: are the pupils old enough to go on ‘Friendbook’ in the first place? A handy app to help you explore this is called, simply, Friendbook. It’s a great discussion starter.

Taking a wider view, what about social media in general? The Social Networks Debate app, which can be found in the same area as the ‘Friendbook’ ones, invites pupils to discuss the pros and cons of being on social media. Again, there are words and pictures provided to help

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Digital Footprint

One important thing that pupils may not realise is that although something like a party happens or a comment made at a particular time, and then seems to disappear, in reality once something is posted or uploaded to the internet, it stays there. This creates a picture of each person, a picture that contains a great deal of information. Sometimes, a comment that someone made when they were very young is suddenly paraded in front of everyone when they’re much older. The name given to this digital record is “digital footprint”.

How much do children understand about this concept? We’ve all heard the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words, and nowhere is this more true than when it comes to your online presence. The Digital Footprint 2Connect app is excellent in this regard. The class could discuss what kind of connections they might have online, then look at the concept map to see if they’ve missed any, and to edit accordingly. They might be surprised to learn, for example, that listening to music online or watching videos also create a digital trail.

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Also explore…

The document calledDigital Footprint Activity is a printable resource that features two young people, and lists what they have published about themselves online. Getting this right will certainly count towards a certificate in Year 5!

The Digital Footprint app is a template that guides the children in writing about what is, ad is not, appropriate to share online, while Digital Connections is an incomplete 2Connect mind map containing various types of connections. They include, for instance, baby photos and newspaper reports, and pupils are invited to identify those which are a positive influence and those that are the opposite.

You can find all of these digital footprint resources, and more, by entering “digital footprint” in the search box.

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According to one report, spam accounts for nearly half (45%) of all emails sent, and the UK has the dubious honour of being ranked at number 6 in the world’s “spam league”. So learning how to spot and deal appropriately with spam mail is a worthwhile skill to learn.

Purple Mash has a useful suite of tools under the banner of 2Respond, and you will definitely want to explore these.

They take the form of a simulated email exchange that starts with a message whose subject line is something like “You’ve won”, or a rather more innocuous one but still from someone you don’t know.

The pupil has the choice as to whether to reply, or click a button to report the email to the teacher. That’s obviously the correct thing to do, but if the pupil decides to reply they will receive another email. They then have to decide whether that one is genuine or not.

The topics covered include spam, “You’ve won” sharing confidential information, an email from a stranger and others.

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Also explore…

You can find the email activities related to online safety by typing “online safety” in the search box, and then looking under Support. However, a better option is to enter “2respond” into the search box, because you will find two additional resources that you will find it worthwhile to explore.

The first is a document entitled “2Respond Email Contents”. It’s a PDF that contains the full text of each email activity, which will save you from having to spend precious time going through each one.

The second is 2Respond Email Creator. This is fantastic, because it enables you to create tailor-made email exchanges for your classes. You can start from scratch, or take one of the existing email sequences and modify it.

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What else?

There is so much more you can do with Purple Mash resources and tools! For example, search for “internet safety”, and then use the Online Safety Comic Book app to create a kind of graphic novel on the subject.

Another option is to use the tools we’ve already explored in other contexts (see the links below). For example, one school we visited had the children creating a computer game with 2DIY3D to illustrate cyberbullying. Making games as well as playing them is increasingly being recognised as an activity that can help pupils learn -- not only about the subject in hand but also other things such as programming concepts. (See, for example, Constructionist Gaming: Understanding the Benefits of Making Games for Learning.)

Plus! Look out for...

Our Digital Parenting guide, (being launched in January 2019) advises parents on how to keep their children safe online.

Finally, don’t forget to enter the sign up to take part in 2Simple’s online safety lesson. This is related to the forthcoming Safer Internet Day, and Purple Mash subscribers will be able to access a suite of specially-created resources.

In case you missed the other articles in this series…

5 ways to teach Religious Education

5 Ways to magically embed maths across your school with Purple Mash

5 ways to inspire writing with Purple Mash

5 ways to engage your pupils in English and Literacy

5 ways to inspire design with Purple Mash and Mini Mash

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org, and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/diged. You can follow Terry on Twitter if you wish:@terryfreedman.