Helping children be safe and confident explorers of the online world

Helping children be safe and confident explorers of the online world

Children are growing up with access to the internet, and all its educational and social benefits, from an early age. Today, learning how to stay safer online is a vital part of a child’s education — and it is something that the whole community around the child needs to support, from their school and their family to the technology companies who have a responsibility to design safer products for children.

As a teacher, I've spent 20 years having broad conversations about safety with children and supporting them to better understand how to be safer and more confident explorers of the online world, and how to get support from trusted adults.

One of the ways I do this is via Be Internet Legends, an online safety education programme, developed by Parent Zone and Google.

Be Internet Legends teaches children in the UK how to be Sharp, Alert, Secure, Kind and Brave online at a level that children understand. Anyone who takes part in the activities — children, educators, parents — gets it. Playing Kind Kingdom in Interland helps families see the impact being kind online has. Role playing what to say to a trusted adult when they have seen something upsetting online empowers children when learning from the Be Internet Brave pillar. And inviting parents and other family members to join a National Drop-in Assembly from their home or workplace helps to facilitate conversations outside of school about how to stay safer online — reinforcing the learning that takes place in school.

There’s proof that it works. An independent review[9f04e3]found that following the Google and Parent Zone training, children are twice as likely to show an improved understanding of internet safety than those who haven’t received the training. It also found that two weeks after receiving the training, 7 in 10 children aged 7-11 report having been kinder in the way they say things online.

A new curriculum for 2022

The Be Internet Legends curriculum was first released in 2018 for all UK primary schools. With the ever changing digital landscape, an update was due – and I was excited to work on this in my new role as education writer at Parent Zone.

Coming straight from the ‘front line’ as a teacher, my knowledge of what really works in the classroom – and what makes a teacher's life easier – enabled the team, in partnership with Google, to develop an updated curriculum that would be well-received, relevant and actionable.

One wonderful aspect of the curriculum and how to use it is that it is completely flexible; teachers are empowered to adapt and use the curriculum to suit their learners. But, in developing the update, I wanted to create ways for schools to use the curriculum with greater span and longevity.

In direct response to teachers’ feedback, I created a progression of skills plan for each year group – and we increased the number of lesson plans to ensure the programme’s messages can be embedded across different age ranges.

The progression of skills demonstrates to schools how they can use the programme with each year group over 4-5 lessons per year; each one building on the previous year’s learning. Following this approach means the Be Internet Legends curriculum can be fully integrated into the PSHE/RSE/computing curriculum every year.

So, you can see that we really want teachers to take ownership of the curriculum and deliver it in a way that suits them.

Media literacy and social-emotional learning

New additions to the programme include a Media Literacy and Social & Emotional learning focus. Media literacy is vital for children and young people; it is the ability to identify different types of media and to understand the messages they are sending.

The curriculum also has a strong Relationships and Sex education (RSE) focus: thinking about, discussing and sharing feelings. Be Internet Legends is about more than just teaching practical online skills – there is a big focus on roleplay and discussions about different relationship situations.

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Helping teachers teach

One of the best things about Be Internet Legends is how it gives teachers autonomy over the learning – allowing them flexibility to use it as, when, and how they wish. Teachers love being in control of what they are teaching!

By co-delivering the teacher-training workshops, I’ve found out so much about how the programme is being used. One secondary special educational needs and disability (SEND) school teacher explained how the curriculum fits perfectly with the academic levels of their learners — and how the students are highly engaged. They said materials for younger learners rarely resonate for their students.

Parents from across the country and with children of all ages have also told me it's something they can understand and, importantly, engage in.

Starting your Legends adventure

Helping schools — and families — stay ahead of the curve with online safety is crucial – so seeing the programme develop for 2022 is exciting. Whether it’s media literacy, RSE or another priority, it’s great to see teachers learning to adapt the programme to support their communities.

I’m really looking forward to continuing to help teachers, children and their parents become safer and more confident explorers of the online world.

And you can find out more about the Be Internet Legends programme or — if you feel like a challenge — take on the Interland game to test your legendary skills too!

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