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"Our schools should be teaching kids about online safety..."

"Our schools should be teaching kids about online safety..."

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 1:46pm 5th January 2017. (Updated at 1:57pm 5th January 2017)

Should schools in our area be responsible for teaching children about protecting themselves online?

A social media expert who runs courses in Surrey schools says they should - as the Children's Commissioner for England publishes a report saying youngsters are "left to fend for themselves in the digital world." 

Commissioner Anne Longfield has said schools should be forced to teach pupils about protecting themselves online, and preventing abuse on social media.

It comes after a year-long study suggests children often learn about the internet without their parents' support.

The Commissioner also warned children had no idea about the terms and conditions of social media sites when they signed up to them.

She said government should teach children "digital citizenship" from the age of four as part of the curriculum, and that children should have a digital ombudsman to help them remove content from social media companies. 

Holly Powell-Jones runs media law training courses in schools in Surrey.

She tells us all schools should play a bigger part in educating children about online safety: "We need to have this kind of education compulsory in schools, because it effects so many young people.

"We wouldn't buy kids cars and not give them driving lessons - so we shouldn't really be giving out smart phones to kids without educating them about how to use them safely and legally, as well as responsibly."

Miss Powell-Jones says it is not just a job for mums and dads: "It is partly parents' responsibility because they are the ones ultimately who buy the children those smart phones in the first place.

"So they do need to take an interest in making sure that a child knows how to use them properly before they give them out.

"But I would say it's a lot easier and more effective to do this kind of education in schools, through teachers, through classroom projects."

Five pupils at Magna Carta School in Staines were asked about the terms and conditions of social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

None of them had ever read the terms and conditions to a social network.

Shaniya Neta, who is 15, said: "It's kind of cheating you. It's almost lying in a way, because it's hiding it so you don't know you're signing up to."

Eleanor Smith, 14, said: "They should write the terms and conditions to suit the people using it. Like Snapchat - it's targeted towards a younger generation.

"But because it's so hidden what they're actually saying, you just press accept."

All the pupils wanted the terms of services to be made clearer, but said they would probably still use social media. 

Sam Hartshom, 14, said: "I still think it's safe enough, I think you can just about trust these companies enough, so long as you use them correctly and not expose yourself too much, you should be fine."

In 2018, a new EU law, the General Data Protection Regulation, will force technology companies to spell out how they use people's data much more clearly.

The UK government has said it will implement the regulation, regardless of Brexit.

Pam Cowburn, communications director for the Open Rights Group,said: "Generally we're not aware of the levels of processing, whether information can be shared and sold on to advertisers, information may be stripped of some personal information and passed on without our knowing."

A government spokesperson said: "The internet has given children and young people fantastic opportunities, but protecting them from risks they might face online or on their phones is vital.

"The UK is a world leader in internet safety, but there is more to do, and we will carefully consider this report as part of our ongoing work to make the internet a safer place for children."


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