Digital Matters: Online safety resources

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

An interactive classroom programme is using real-life scenarios to help primary-age children to make good choices in the digital world.

Created by the charity Internet Matters, the free Digital Matters programme has been quality-assured by the PSHE Association and developed with teachers.

The platform aims to teach critical thinking skills pupils need to tackle issues including fake news and misinformation, as well as teaching them about cyber-bullying, online grooming, peer pressure, and keeping their personal information secure.

It is aimed specifically at pupils in years 5 and 6 (P6 and P7 in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

The lessons ask children to navigate a number of different situations they are likely to encounter online. Based on real-life scenarios, they will be able to discuss the issues in class and learn how to make the right choices in a safe space.

Research published to mark the launch of the programme shows that parents of primary-aged children are increasingly concerned about online safety issues. The survey of 1,066 parents with children aged six to 10 revealed increasing incidents of exposure to fake news and misinformation, online trolling and cyber-bullying.

The new platform is designed to include parents and carers in delivering this education too. Teachers can share companion resources with parents so that messages can be reinforced at home.

Ghislaine Bombusa, head of digital at Internet Matters and who led the creation of the platform, said: “There is a growing need to ensure young people not only stay safe online but have the media literacy skills they need to navigate their increasingly complex digital world.

“At a critical time in their development, we hope to help schools teach young people these skills in a supportive environment where they can practice making choices in realistic situations, all on an interactive digital platform.

Content on the platform is to be updated regularly with online safety topics in line with the statutory relationships education curriculum.

Primary school teacher Lee Parkinson, who trialled the platform, added: “Being able to show kids the direct result of their choices online, when faced with difficult situations, such as sharing information or being confronted with fake news, allowed my class to make mistakes and learn how to make the right choices without the potentially nasty consequences.

“Whether we like to admit it or not, the age that kids use tech unsupervised is rapidly getting younger so issues like trolling, receiving nasty comments online and being tricked into sharing personal information is no longer just an issue for secondary schools to deal with and I feel the best form of prevention with all these issues is through education.”

Internet Matters is a not-for-profit body funded by the industry that helps families stay safe online, providing resources for parents, carers and educational professionals.


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