Safe, ethical and responsible use of Information Communications and Technology (ICT) is crucial to society and education. It must be instilled in children before they have access to ICT if we are to protect them from the dangers of the internet and wish to nurture their learning and development. Specifically, the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (focus area 4.5) and the ICT general capabilities element of employing ethical and social practices that expect both students and teachers to demonstrate safe, ethical, and responsible use of ICT. While teachers must educate students about cyber safety, model the appropriate use of ICT, ensure that inappropriate material is not accessible to students, and keep a watchful eye on the use of ICT within the classroom, it is not solely the teacher’s responsibility. Students are in the care of their teacher for 32 hours a week which means that there is another 136 hours unaccounted for. Clearly, the importance of internet safety at home is fundamental to student well being and learning. Therefore, parents/guardians must collaborate with the teacher and implement strategies/guidelines at home that will reinforce the importance of internet safety.
ICT is constantly changing and improving. Consider the first mobile phone, invented in 1973 by Dr Martin Cooper, and was incredibly basic when compared to our smart phones of today. The smart phone has revolutionized ICT as we know it, it would seem that there is not much that a smart phone cannot do and our generation has come to depend heavily on it. With the use of a smart phone, as well as IPods, IPads, laptops, and tablets etc, the internet and social networking devices can be easily accessed be people of all ages. We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips and the ability to interact with others over the internet in a way older generations could have only dreamed about. The possibilities that this has created for education are limitless. Gone are the days of the dusty chalkboard and writing slates, with many schools now implementing the use of Smartboards, IPads, and laptops. Therefore, it is vital that students are taught how to use ICT in ways that leave a positive digital mark in order to enhance their learning.
The educational benefits of advancements in ICT are undeniable but there also comes a risk regarding the cyber safety of students. The internet also contains sexual, violent, and even illegal content, which unfortunately is easily accessed by children unless the necessary steps have been taken to prohibit/minimise the potential viewing of these sites. Furthermore, cyber bullying is on the rise with a staggering 85% of children suffering from this torment today compared to 6% in 2000. Identity theft, scams, and ‘stranger danger’ are all risks that are related to the internet and use of ICT. Children also need to be aware of how to use online material appropriately and the importance of referencing. While adults are not immune to the dangers of the internet children are even more vulnerable and precaution must be taken to ensure students know how to be Cyber Safe, understand E-Security, and understand the concept of Ethical Use (copyright and Creative Commons). For more detail on these cyber issues please visit the Cyber Smart website (click here to access).
Fortunately there are many organisations which can help inform you about how to setup an internet safe home and educate your child about internet safety. The Australian Government website Stay Smart Online (click here to access) is dedicated to helping parents protect their children from the dangers of the internet. It gives an overview into the importance of internet safety and provides useful tips into making your home an internet safe environment. It also provides links to activities, such as Budd:e (click here to access), that can be completed at home which reinforce how to be internet safe. Another great site is Primary Tech (click here to access) by Kathleen Morris. Kathleen discusses how to teach children about digital footprints, cyber safety and young students, tips for students, parents, and teachers, regarding cyber safety, and finally she provides free poster downloads about internet safety (what a great idea for the classroom and around home!).