‘Kids really like getting involved in the training sessions’
Image: Ollie at work in the Parent Zone office
We speak to Parent Zone’s family support worker Ollie Barron to find out more about his role, Parent Zone training sessions and his take on the upcoming Digital Families 2017 conference with CEOP
Tell us about your role at Parent Zone
I support schools, students, parents and local authorities in promoting digital resilience. I spend a lot of my time visiting schools across the country, running interactive training sessions for primary and secondary pupils. We talk about how to navigate the online world in a safe and positive way. The sessions cover lots of relevant topics, ranging from how to do research online and spot fake news to how to avoid internet scams. Kids really like getting involved in the training sessions and sharing their opinions about what they enjoy doing online.
‘Sessions cover lots of topics, ranging from how to do research online and spot fake news to how to avoid internet scams’
What challenges do you think schools face when it comes to protecting pupils online?
Schools and professionals working with young people are under a lot of pressure to know all the answers. This can be tricky if they don’t feel they have the sufficient knowledge and expertise themselves. That’s where our training team comes in! Our expert training sessions can help staff and pupils deal with issues related to online safety and the positive use of the internet.
Why is digital resilience so important for schools?
When visiting schools, I’ve found that even very young pupils are aware of some of the risks they face online. On one occasion, an 8-year-old girl told me she was worried about giving away too much information online because she doesn’t want to be stalked or abducted. This may sound extreme, but it highlights some of the real concerns young people face today.
Schools realise that there’s a need to move the conversation toward a more positive approach of equipping pupils to deal with any unpleasantness they may encounter online. This concept of promoting digital resilience is so important and it’s helping professionals and parents understand that we need to look further than just blocking, filtering and banning young people from the online world.
Our new Digital Resilience curriculum for Digital Schools members provides schools with the expert resources they need: with lesson plans, policy briefings and parent handouts to help young people and their families manage their online lives positively and independently.
‘An 8-year-old girl told me she was worried about giving away too much information online because she doesn’t want to be stalked or abducted’
What do you think the training team can help schools achieve?
Our training team consists of online safety experts; we aim to make our sessions engaging and informative.
We bring our interactive training sessions straight to schools and can plan tailor-made sessions to suit the specific needs of the school, including sessions for pupils, staff, parents and other professionals working with young people.
In the pupil sessions, we actively encourage young people to share what they’ve learned in the sessions when they get home. We tell them to talk to their parents about their favourite apps, games and websites.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our training sessions do look at our schools sessions pages or give us a call to discuss how we can help you.
Tell us about the professionals members’ forum.
We wanted to give members the opportunity to interact with one another and with our membership and training team. The members’ forum is a safe place to ask questions, get an interesting discussion going and seek expert advice.
A pupil may raise an issue or have a question after one of our training sessions and a member will be able to seek expert advice, even after our training team has left.
It’s only available for logged-in members so the conversations are relevant and could provoke some interesting discussions and viewpoints to be shared amongst other members.
‘The members’ forum is a safe place to ask questions, get an interesting discussion going and seek expert advice’
How will the forthcoming Digital Families 2017 conference benefit teachers and professionals that work with young people?
Digital Families 2017 is a fantastic opportunity to hear from experts and find out more about the research into what really works when it comes to supporting young people in a digital age.
The event will explore new and emerging risks, with a focus on digital resilience as its central theme. I think it’s vital for professionals working with young people to educate themselves with the current approaches – this is all so new for everyone and very relevant.
I think Digital Families 2017 will help professionals working with young people feel more confident to address some of these important digital challenges that young people face.
If you look at the conference agenda you’ll see it’s jam-packed. I’d advise having a quick look at our speakers page to familiarise yourself with their areas of expertise. There’ll also be an opportunity to network all day, so it’s a great chance to chat to people in a similar line of work.
‘Digital Families 2017 will help professionals working with young people feel more confident to address some of these important digital challenges that young people face’
What are you most looking forward to hearing about at the conference?
I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Professor Andrew Przybylski of the Oxford Internet Institute because of his research into gaming and social media, and the impact if may have on young people. I’ve seen so many children struggle with this and plenty of adults too, so I think it could be very helpful to hear the latest research into this area.