Child safety must adapt for the online world, says NSPCC head

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With the exponential rise of technology, the popularity of social media platforms and the ubiquity of smart devices, ‘online health and safety’ has never been more important. The benefits of edtech are enormous, from individualised learning and mixed realities, to the instant global connectivity that social media provides. But we need to balance these rewards by addressing the risks of being online - from cyberbullying and loss of privacy, to concerns around the mental health of social media users. So how should schools go about ensuring this?

The Innovation Index survey, carried out by an independent party and commissioned by Bett to understand the needs and challenges of educators, consisted of extensive research into the UK and EU education market with responses from over 1,700 educators. Only 54% of those surveyed feel equipped to deal with any negative effects social media may have on learners’ mental wellbeing. This leaves plenty of room for awareness and growth in this area, and encourages a wider discussion that needs to take place.

This year at the Bett Show, we caught up with Peter Wanless (CEO of the NSPCC), who took to the stage to share his passion, views and expertise on what can be done to keep children safe online…

What are the NSPCC doing about online safety and why is it important for you to be here at Bett?

“If we’re talking about giving children a fantastic childhood then nowadays technology and the digital world is going to be a massive part of that. The real challenge is that child protection hasn’t been designed for the online world the way it has been for the offline world - and that means unfortunately there are many spaces online at the moment that allow predators to prey on vulnerable people. We need to work really hard to get that safety designed into the digital world as fast as we can, so that more of us can be more confident that our children are safer online.”

Where do you want to get to? And who do you think should be doing more?

“Everyone. I think there’s an essential need now for regulation, so there’s something the government must do – the NSPCC believes beyond just encouraging companies to do the best they can. There are way too many parents who haven’t begun to think about and have the conversations with young people about how to stay safe online, and I don’t blame them for that. We have a service called Net Aware, which ranks the main social media sites young people are going on – these are triggers for parents to start having a conversation about the rules or expectations about online behaviour in their family; and to try and make that as easy and as natural as possible.”

What steps will you take to empower your students to feel safe online, and protect their mental health, in 2018/19? To read more about these findings, download our Innovation Index Mental Health Report.

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