Digital Wellbeing: A Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety framework for Northern Ireland.
Digital wellbeing is the impact of using digital technology on children and young people's social, emotional wellbeing.
This framework has drawn together national and European perspectives and distilled them into a whole-school road map for promoting students’ digital wellbeing through strong Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety practices. In the immediate and long-term future, schools, face increasing demands to include digital wellbeing as part of the way they use digital technologies for learning and teaching. The challenge is not only to ensure children’s digital wellbeing but to establish processes and strategies that will allow students to develop the skills, knowledge and attributes to secure, manage and protect their own wellbeing. This important challenge underpins the Digital Schools Award’s ethos, which is to assist schools to develop, nurture and sustain resilient and positive digital practices in learning and teaching as well as alleviate its risks and threats.
Why is cyber resilience and internet safety so important?
‘Children and young people today are growing up in a digital world. They need support now, more than ever before, to develop the skills they need to navigate safely though the digital landscape, both at home and in school. They need to be able to balance technology’s benefits with a critical awareness of their own and others’ online behaviour, and develop effective strategies for staying safe and making a positive contribution online.’
We are spending an increasing amount of time learning, playing and socialising in online environments. In fact, by the end of 2020, 94% of homes had internet access and children aged 7-16 spent nearly 4 hours per day online. In the age category 12- to 15-year-olds, more than half who were surveyed said they had had a negative experience online in 2020. By the age of 11 the majority (59%) of UK children use social media and by the age of 15, 95% of children use it. Due to remote teaching experiences during 2020, virtually all children had some form of home internet access, enabling them to access schoolwork along with social activities. (Ofcom, 2021 page 5).
According to DigiLearnScot, our online behaviours fall into three categories, we:
To support our children and young people navigate this part of their lives, we need to be able to support them to recognise, react to, and recover from online harms. At the same time, we need to promote safer, smarted and kinder ways of playing, learning and socialising online.
Defining Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety
The NI Cyber Security Centre (2021) states that:
“Cyber resilience is an individual's or organisation’s ability to withstand, respond to and recover from a cyber attack or data breach.”
In education this means ensuring that our students are able to recognise, react, respond and recover from cyber incidents. This includes developing the 'skills that will be useful to anyone who wants to take part safely and effectively in the digital aspects of society. In this context pupils should learn about how to use the internet productively but with an understanding of how to stay safe, and what are the social norms and legal implications of their actions online.
"Used well, digital technologies are powerful, worthwhile educational tools; technical safeguards can partly protect users, but education in safe, effective practices is a key goal for schools. Where deliberate misuse occurs, schools’ rules and the law apply.”
(Circular 2007/01 – Acceptable use of the internet in schools)
The Department for Education NI (circular 2016/27) states:
‘Schools have a responsibility to ensure that there is a reduced risk of pupils accessing harmful and inappropriate digital content. Schools should be energetic in teaching pupils how to act responsibly and keep themselves safe in the digital world and as a result pupils should have a clear understanding of online safety issues and be able to demonstrate what a positive digital footprint might look like for themselves.’
Children and young people have a right to be protected and educated. The report highlights the requirement to take appropriate preventative action to protect children and minimise the associated risks around online safety.
These risks have been defined under four categories:
- Content risks: The child or young person is exposed to harmful materials.
- Contact risks: The child or young person participates in adult-initiated online activity and/or is at risk of grooming.
- Conduct risks: The child or young person is a perpetrator or subject to bullying behaviour in peer-to-peer exchange and/or is at risk of bullying, entrapment and/or blackmail.
- Commercial risks: The child or young person is exposed to inappropriate commercial advertising, marketing schemes or hidden costs/fraud.
Schools have a duty to educate students by
Providing age-appropriate online safety messages that are relevant and engaging.
Actively promoting online safety messages for pupils on how to stay safe; how to protect themselves online; and how to take responsibility for their own and others’ safety.
Actively promoting online safety within the school, for example through the development of online safety messages by the learners themselves, and participation in events such as Safer Internet Day and associated competitions organised by agencies such as EA/C2k.
"Teachers and parents play a crucial role in supporting children to navigate the risks and make the most of technology. Teachers can give pupils opportunities to use and create positive online content and at the same time give them the confidence and the skills to seek help should they encounter problems online. Parents can help by engaging with their children and encouraging them to talk about any concerns." (Weir, 2020)