What are the potential risks when using the Internet and mobile techologies?
The Internet and emerging technologies are having a powerful and positive effect on our lives and the way young people are educated and learn. This is widely accepted by schools, parents, educators and pupils, however, there are potential dangers to communicating, browsing the Internet and using mobile technologies. Although we must not allow these dangers to cloud the positive impact of these technologies we need to be aware of the dangers and ensure we have taken the necessary precautions to protect and educate our networks, computers, pupils and staff. Below is a summary of some of the potential risks.
Copyright law applies to all materials online in some form or other. If we are using text and images from Internet sources then we need to ensure that this is done within copyright of those materials and reference them appropriately. The Bradford Learning Network has provided access to SCRAN for images, videos and sounds and there is also access via this network to the Audio Network for more music and sound files. These resources are copyright free for use in schools. Children and staff also need to be aware of the issues surrounding downloading music and video illegally and this should be covered in the
for staff and children. Children need to be educated about plagiarism in their work.
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Obsessive use of the Internet and
Children are using the Internet, games consoles and computers for large amounts of time and parents, guardians, teachers and pupils all need to be aware of the potential harm this can cause. Part of this is due to society being more protective over children and allowing children less time out of the home other than in organised activities such s clubs and sports. As such children are entertaining / educating themselves using these technologies for greater lengths of time and we need to make sure that this does not have a negative impact on their social / physical skills, sleep patterns, education, relationships and eye sight. Although children spend more time than their parents do communicating / gaming online we need to ensure that there is reasonable balance between life in the real world and the virtual world.
Exposure to inappropriate content
In schools the content children access should go through a filtering process; this will be provided by the school's Broadband provider or through a system installed at the school itself. This heavily limits but does not prevent access to sites that may contain pornographic, hateful, violent, racist, sexist or homophobic materials unsuitable for children. Parents need to be educated in ways to help prevent their children accidentally coming across content of this type at home; children also need educating on how to respond to these materials and who to report it to
Inappropriate or illegal behaviour
Young people may get involved in inappropriate, antisocial or illegal behaviour while using new technologies. Online bullying is a well publicised example where children can be bullied from a distance and sometimes by anonymous groups. This can be aimed at staff as well as students. This may not put the child / member of staff at risk physically but emotionally can cause victims to have low self-esteem, become depressed or have psychological problems at home and at school. Other serious activities include being involved in identity theft, downloading / uploading software, video and music, distribution of indecent / pornographic materials and buying / selling illegal or stolen goods.
Any concern relating to criminally obscene or criminally racist content can be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation
Physical danger and sexual abuse
The threat of physical danger / abuse is the most disturbing and a minority of people do use technologies and Internet spaces frequented by young children to try and develop relationships with children in order to abuse them physically. This often takes place through chat rooms or services with Instant Messaging capabilities where paedophiles often spend months or years grooming children by posing as a young person with similar interests and ideas. Young people can put themselves at risk by publishing personal information about themselves to anybody on the web. This data can provide information which is then used to identify and communicate directly with them.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is part of UK police and is dedicated to protecting children from sexual abuse wherever they may be.
Inappropriate or illegal behaviour by school staff
Some school staff have been involved in inappropriate or illegal behaviour relating to ICT use. This may include viewing or circulating inappropriate material via email, such activity may result in staff being suspended / sacked or prosecuted by the police. The school needs to make clear what is acceptable at school through an AUP for all staff.