Why membership matters
Sophie (right), pictured with Parent Zone CEO Vicki Shotbolt and our membership mascot DigiDog, spreading the word in Belfast
We speak to Sophie Linington, Parent Zone’s deputy CEO and head of membership and training, about membership options, training sessions and our upcoming Digital Families 2017 conference with CEOP
Tell us about your role as part of the training team
My role is to develop the training that we deliver in schools. This involves sessions to staff, pupils and parents. We run individual, bespoke sessions for schools, looking at a range of issues related to online risk management and, more importantly, digital resilience.
Can you give an example of a time your training session had a significant positive outcome for a school?
During one session, some pupils told us that they found it hard to get their parents’ attention because of their use of devices.
It was interesting to see how the school followed this up and used the resources we provided them to engage with parents, helping them think about the impact of their own tech use on family life. Many families from the school came to an agreement about when phones would be used and when they wouldn’t.
I think this is powerful because the feedback from our sessions came directly from students and this in turn had a noticeable and positive impact on the work the school did with parents and families.
‘Some pupils told us that they found it hard to get their parents’ attention because of their use of devices’
What's the difference between Digital Schools membership and Digital Resilience membership?
Digital Schools membership is a one-stop shop for schools; any school can join, whether primary, secondary, state, independent or a sixth form college. The emphasis of this membership is what can be taught in the classroom, upskilling staff and providing schools with expert resources to share with parents; they also get access to our online parenting course.
We provide schools with lesson plans and other expert resources they can use in the classroom to engage their students and really help to reinforce any online safety education that they’ve already experienced. In addition to that, there's the new Digital Resilience curriculum, which helps crystalise key skills that young people need, to manage online risk in any situation.
Digital Resilience membership is essentially for anyone else working with children, young people and families. Our current Digital Resilience members include Prevent teams, social workers, local authorities and charities. It gives them access to two parenting courses, online training for their employees and quarterly updates.
‘The new Digital Resilience curriculum helps crystalise key skills that young people need to manage online risk in any situation’
What's the professional members’ forum?
This is something we’ve had for a while, but it has recently been revamped. We did some evaluation with our members last year and they told us that one of the ways they'd really like to be in contact with other members is through the forum.
The forum offers our members an opportunity to find out what other schools or professionals are doing, discuss issues and challenges they might be facing and get feedback and advice to help them answer any questions parents or young people they are working with may have.
It can even be an opportunity to tell us when something is going well. We love to see members’ photos of DigiDog, hear about how they’re using our DigiKnow quizzes with their pupils, and find out how they’re using the new digital resilience curriculum in class.
Finally, what's Family Champions membership?
Family Champions membership was developed in response to demand from companies that we’ve worked with, who’ve seen our products and the expert resources that we’re able to share with schools and schools’ parents, and expressed an interest in getting involved.
It enables organisations and companies to give their employees access to our parenting course, *Parent Info resources, a range of parent handouts, top tips and expert information about online safety issues that we know parents face every day.
(*Parent Info is our free service for schools, with expert content for parents, helping them keep children and young people safe online)
‘Family Champions membership was developed in response to demand from companies that we’ve worked with, who’ve seen our products and expert resources’
Tell us about the forthcoming Digital Families 2017 conference. Why should professionals working with young people come along?
I’m very excited about our Digital Families conference this year. The focus is on our partnership with CEOP; we’ve been working with CEOP on Parent Info for a good few years now, and this is the first time that CEOP has done a conference. We’re so pleased that they decided to partner with us. We have some fantastic expert speakers lined up for the day.
We’ll be looking at online risk, some of the harms and also some grittier stuff - helping professionals that are engaging with young people and families to think about some of the things that are not in the mainstream media.
We’ll be looking at topics such as gambling, the effects of social media and gaming. Crucially we’ll be looking at good responses, what works in terms of protecting young people from online risk and how to mitigate those harms.
‘At Digital Families 2017 we’ll be looking at good responses - what works in terms of protecting young people from online risk and how to mitigate those harms’
What are you most looking forward to about the conference?
I’d have to say it’s the responses part. It’s going to be a really good way to end the conference and see that we’ve identified the challenges and discussed how to respond most effectively.