Friday, 27 April 2012

E-Safety: Developing effective Practice.

I know this blog post is quite late after the event but I was going to use some of its contents to write an article (a proper one) for my workplace. As I am now leaving there, I will no longer be doing this so I thought I would share it as a post instead...
On 8th February 2012, I attended the very swish JISC headquarters in London. The event was free and was aimed at raising awareness and highlighting issues so practioners could ensure their organisations were providing safe environments for young people. I was attending because I had recently been involved in creating web safety guides and intranet pages for my place of work and had also been involved in putting together an event for the, as was, Colleges of Further and Higher Education London and South East Committee. CoFHE LASEC.

Firstly, Martin King from Ealing Hammersmith and West London College (EHWLC) started by quoting from Douglas Adams:

“Everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal”

“ Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative”

“Anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation"These quotes to me accurately sum up people’s approaches to the internet and how we should approach web safety. For adults involved in teaching and promoting web safety we often see the virtual and real world as two different entities, however, young adults and children have become used to the two becoming intertwined and now see them as one.

Martin elaborated on the evolvement of the internet:
Web.1 (1990-2004) when only organisations published pages to sell products or services
Web.2 (2005 onwards) which is more collaborative and involves people networking and participating rather than having static web pages

Web 3 (2010 onward) the internet is not only being used socially but in real time and having an immediate and outstanding effect on the world, from the Arab spring to computer hacking.

He then went on to explain that due to the increase in smartphones, a symbiotic relationship was developing between people and their technology and as change becomes increasingly faster it is made much harder for educators and trainers to promote and teach safety.

He claimed in his research that students and institutions wanted very different things from safety. Students want privacy i.e. they want to know who is monitoring them and what they are going to do with the information they have and senior management want control and protection so are highly concerned with access issues. Those in the middle who teach and promote safety are mostly concerned with protection and guidance.I found this to be thought provoking and surprising where the students were concerned. I wasn’t surprised regarding the comments of those in senior management athough s often banning everything can often seem like such a simple and easy solution, if not a very enlightened or democratic one.

Amrik Aujila was also from EHWLC. His presentation focused on raising awareness of online risks and the responsibilities of members of staff in promoting and maintaining good safety practice. He gave us these OFCOM statistics:

50% of British teenagers (12-15) own a SMARTPHONE 60% of which classify themselves as 'addicted' / crackberry?

Top 3 - Social networking, Music, gaming and apps by comparison, only 27% adult own a SMARTPHONE, 37% 'addicted' Top 3 - email, surfing, social networking/apps.

He emphasised:

  •  the importance of having all policies in a well known and easily accessible place
  • ensuring they are consistent and also compatible with each other
  • all staff must be trained, even contractors, as everybody has the opportunity to come into contact with students and/or computers 
  • they ensure students know what is going on by integrating their policies and guidance into the SHAPE agenda, the Student Portal and National Be Safe week
  • Esafety has to be driven from the top down for it to work and have any impact
At EHWLC, elearning is embedded throughout the entire college. They have created a central staff resource for safeguarding including; policies, procedures, training materials, report abuse button. A ‘keep safe week’ is run once a term.

Nicola Prime, the elearning manager from Uxbridge College, like Amrik, emphasised the need to take a whole college approach.  All students have to go through a tutorial during safety week.
  • They have a panic button on Moodle where any type of abuse, not just web, can be reported.
  • There is a monthly esafety report which keeps staff up to date so they can alter the pages accordingly
  • All new staff have online web safety training within two weeks of joining and a face to face training session within 6 months. Non-contract people are included in this, including cleaners, volunteers etc.
  • An safety resource tutorial and quiz was created so that students could go thought it in one sitting or refer back to it over time. I particularly liked the getting students to locate on screen where the Facebook privacy settings were.
  • They have a dedicated Moodle course for esafety

Graham Francis from Havering Sixth Form College spoke about the issues from an I.T. perspective. He emphasised the importance of getting everyone to sign an acceptable use policy as otherwise people who commit misdemeanours cannot be punished as they can claim they didn’t know. 
  •  Havering College only blocks the category porn - they don’t block large categories, for example, violence.
  • hey use E-safe and Palo Alto 2020 to monitor what people are looking at
  • The college doesn’t allow people to use their own devices, however, this may be subject to change   
  • Documentation needs to be very clear and accessible – not hidden away on Sharepoint
  • Have to be reliant on third party software but means no personal agenda
  • There is a very big grey area with regards confidentiality versus duty of care – should parents, carers be told what students are looking at? No test case as yet
  • Tumblr now becoming an issue for phishing and spam

 To me this all seems very time-consuming to keep a check on what everyone looks at but it seems to work for them. An example was given of a young student looking at how to write a suicide note who had no reason to for their classwork. This person was then being offered counselling within fifteen minutes of typing. I can see that a duty of care is needed for youngsters but something about this freaked me out slightly. These comments all led to much discussion amongst the group over whether the education sector’s response to safety is to create a police state, much as they often went overboard with health and safety initiatives. Questions raised include: where does duty of care start and finish – just in school? Does filtering raise awareness?


 Other comments which arose during the discussion were that safe searching tips need to be taught so that students studying controversial topics don’t get blacklisted and that students are using encryption to maintain privacy so the students who lose out are the ones without the knowhow and/or technology as it becomes an ‘armsrace’ to stop students getting round access.

Dr Emma Bond from University Campus Suffolk spoke about students' perception of risk compared to ours. Below are some highlights:
  • We shouldn’t treat esafety and responsibility any differently to safety in the real world. For many young people the virtual world is part of their real world. It is the responsibility of all staff to promote safety and not just pass the book to the elearning or I.T. people because it has an e in front of it. It has moved on from I.T.  to safeguarding to everybody’s responsibility
  • Schools blocking social media are disadvantaging students who don’t have internet access at home
  • Higher Education is an area which isn’t being looked at despite older people not being brought up with it and often having children of their own
  • We should promote responsibility rather than lock down
  • Not all teachers know their legal responsibilities
  • Risks and opportunities are different from students and professionals views
  • If students are going to do things then offer practical advice, for example, if you’re going to take a naked pic of yourself then don’t put your head in it
  • Some sales jobs now use Facebook as a way of you getting a job, e.g. must have over 5000 friends to get job
  • Should be advising anxious and depressed students to go to welfare rather than go to pro ana or suicide sites
  • Emphasis should be on talking to someone after they’ve seen something or having an issue

Questions/considerations I have passed on to my instution are:
  • Do we have clear e-safety policies?
  • Are they clearly accessible?
  • How is filtering decided?
  • How do students disclose?
  • Do students and staff know what they should do?

 For more information about the day, including the presentations and useful links go the JISC RSC page. I really hope the web safety issues aren't dropped when I leave because I think it is very important and I have passed on the details of the follow up event for someone to attend. Dr Emma's comments about esafety not being a consideration in universities is an interesting one for me, especially as I work mostly with higher education students. My new job will be in a university so there may be some scope for starting something there - we will see...






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