Online safety for learners
In this area you can find resources and links that will help to keep you safe online whilst you explore this digital space, as well as advice, tips and support if things have gone wrong.
The simple answer is that you can never be sure that everyone who you game with, or chat with, or post in a fan forum with is who they say they are. It is very easy to create fake social media accounts and sadly there are people who create such profiles in order to start talking to children. These people are very good at pretending to be your friend and to have the same interests and hobbies as yourself. They may ask you for personal details such as your name, age and address or contact numbers. You should never give out this sort of information to anybody online, no matter if you think this person is a friend.
However, technology is changing and there is a variety of apps available that help you connect with other real world users. These including gaming apps and dating apps for example. It can be easy for you to be in a risky situation. If you are going to meet up with people, or you are gaming with other people, it is good to do that with people you know from the real world. That way, if something goes wrong, you are able to contact real people that you know and trust who can help you with the situation.
Always, approach new relationships online with caution – ask yourself if someone in the real world would behave that way, or ask that question so easily. What might be the worst outcome? What about the best outcome? If you’re not sure, talk with a trusted adult before you get too far.
The internet is a fantastic place – a gateway to a world of information, pictures, music, friends and family, games and entertainment. If the internet is used appropriately and safely then it will provide opportunities for learning, for creating and for communicating with the world.
For some children and young people, figures show that a large number of them experience online bullying* - 56% of young people said they have seen others be bullied online and 42% have felt unsafe online - or receive unwanted sexual images or view materials that they did not wish to see. All of these can be very upsetting to a greater or lesser extent depending on the age of the child. Whatever age you are, if you do see something that upsets you, or are being bullied online the you must tell an adult.
There is a range of software or apps that might help block unwanted content such as pop up ads and it is important that the software on your pc, tablet or laptop is up to date and that all of the security features are turned on.
*BullyingUK National Survey 2014
The taking and sending of a sexually explicit picture of somebody under 18 is classed as producing a child sexual abuse image and risks being prosecuted. This is true even if the pictures are consensually taken and shared with that young person’s permission. Authorities are aware that sexting is viewed as common place by many teens, however schools do have a duty to safeguard both of you in such a situation. Whilst sharing nudes may be considered illegal, where only young people are involved, the police take a reasonable approach and have not yet prosecuted a child for this. If the images are shared online they can become public and can be saved, copied and distributed by others. That naked picture of you circulating around the Internet may lead to negative situations. Removing images off the Internet can be challenging and may lead to all kinds of issues as you get older. If you are caught with images on your phone of your teenage partner, then you do risk a possible prosecution especially if there are circumstances which cause alarm to the investigating authorities e.g. a large difference in age.
If you are worried about sexting, or need support then more information can be found in the ‘So you got naked online’ resource
Research published in 2014* which used a group of 10-15 year olds found that gaming for less than 1 hour a day could actually be beneficial, whereas gaming for in excess of 3 hours per day was not so good for psychological development. The middle ground in this study i.e. between 1-3 hours of gaming per day showed no evidence of either positive or negative effects when compared to non-players.
Research has started to identify that video game addiction is growing and lots of research is being carried out in this area. You may be suffering from video game addiction if you are unable or unwilling to participate in any interests or activities other than gaming. You may be constantly thinking about your next gaming session, devising ways to get back to the game if you have to leave (e.g. not eating), or abandoning former hobbies that don’t relate to gaming or declining social events with offline friends. Your school work and homework may also be suffering.
Gaming for excessive periods instead of spending time taking part in physical activity might lead to other medical conditions associated with a general lack of exercise.
*(Pediatrics: Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment, Andrew K. Przybylski, PhD)