'When one-year-olds can find Peppa Pig on YouTube, educating about online safety must start as early as possible.'
Kate Forbes, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy in the Scottish government, talks about the importance of ICT education, digital literacy and supporting parents to teach children about the internet...
When it comes to knowing the right and wrong things to do online, digital literacy is vitally important. So, as Minister for Digital Economy, I attended a Google Be Internet Legends assembly and was amazed to see the kids switched on and understanding a lot of the concepts covered.
I initially thought it might be pitched at too high an age, but it clearly is relevant to the Key Stage 2 age group. Around some issues raised, such as those regarding phishing, I instinctively thought, ‘Oh they’re only primary school kids – why are you talking about that?’ In fact, the children themselves picked up on these points well.
‘There’s got to be support for parents to teach their children about the internet’
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The breadth of issues covered is impressive. I was taken aback that not only does it talk about personal issues like bullying and being kind online but also specific things, like ways to protect personal information. There are two reasons why that strikes me as important. Firstly, children may potentially have access to sensitive information already. Secondly, lessons now will help them when they’re teens.
At a time when many one-year-olds can navigate YouTube to find Peppa Pig videos, educating children about online safety must start as early as possible. There’s got to be support for parents as to how they’re going to teach their children about the internet, because they use it from an incredibly young age.
‘It is so important we all recognise the dangers and know how to respond’
Of course, at this age they might not be sharing on social media or disclosing important information, but the earlier they understand the dangers and use the internet more safely, the better.
Perhaps there isn’t always enough appreciation amongst parents and adults of the dangers online. It is so important we all recognise the dangers and know how to respond.
After the school assembly, there was a chat amongst some of the teachers about the issues raised – specifically things they personally didn’t know and safety measures they weren’t taking themselves. I know, for example, that my mum doesn’t lock her phone!
‘It’s a great idea for big tech companies to help people be safer and more secure online’
Critical literacy is one of the cornerstones of the project, focusing on the ability to understand and spot risks
Working with digital companies, I feel there is a growing sense that they’re more interested in ethics and privacy than ever before. The Be Internet Legends programme is excellent and Google’s involvement is welcome. It’s not just nice of them to being doing Be Internet Legends. It’s essential they are.
It’s a great idea for big tech companies to help people be safer and more secure online. They’ve got to start with the kids, because they’re the most vulnerable but also because they can learn and change their behaviour.
I would recommend as many schools get involved in Be Internet Legends as possible, in Scotland and across the UK, by ordering the free curriculum pack. I hope that our teachers can reinforce the messages for our pupils, to help them do the right things online.