Safeguarding in a Digital World: What are Digital Natives?

Safeguarding in a Digital World: What are Digital Natives?
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For those of us who grew up in an age before ubiquitous internet access, online safety remains a definitive point of concern. We tend to check websites for signs of fraudulent activity and are wary of anything we haven’t come across before. However, for digital natives (a.k.a ‘Generation Z’), the outlook is very different.

While schools do their best to cover topics on internet safety for kids, it’s hard to regulate a child’s usage at home. With online capabilities on mobile devices becoming more and more accessible, it’s important that we help children learn the differences between useful internet resources and more nefarious material.

Teaching Online Safety from an Early Stage

There’s no doubt that the internet has changed the way children learn and develop. Nowadays, around 97% of households with children have an internet connection and 30% of parents allow their children to access online content without regular supervision. It’s a staggering number, considering next to none of us would leave children unattended in any other situation where the potential for harm was increased. For example, you wouldn’t leave your child alone in the kitchen with a hot stove within their reach.

The problem stems from the fact that the internet doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat. Online safety is reserved more for restricting purchases and adult material, than for minimising children’s exposure to certain forums or scams. It’s very easy to believe that a young child doesn’t know how to search for these kinds of website. But, when they are allowed unlimited access to the internet from the age of three or four, it doesn’t take them long to become experts in navigation.  

Since it is very difficult to implement a complete blanket ban of technology, parents, teachers and any other adult role models must begin introducing the concept of online safety as early as possible. Safeguarding training can help strengthen this process, as those in a position of care can use expert guidance to ensure there is no stone left unturned.

Using Safeguarding Training to Protect Digital Natives

While you can’t always be there to monitor children’s activity, you can help them stay safe online at all times. Online safeguarding training offers those with a duty of care a chance to learn exactly where children are likely to become exposed to unsavoury material, including comments and suggestions. It’s not always enough to set parental restrictions on individual devices, as a lot of a child’s searched content won’t fall under its parameters.

Instead, you need to arm children with the skills necessary to spot potential threats for themselves. If your child is at the age where you can discuss openly with them the kinds of content they should be avoiding, this is a great opportunity to broaden their understanding of online safety. Along with explicit content, other age-inappropriate material might be available to them online, such as internet chat forums on topics like extreme dieting and radicalisation. Many of these sites will fly under the radar and may still be obtainable to persistent users.

Safeguarding training is the easiest defence against naive behaviour. If you are trained to teach your children the importance of online safety, you are far more likely to get through to them. If you can confidently explain the reasons why you are restricting their use of technology, there is less chance of them using it out of spite. Eventually, children will grow up into internet-using adults and, if you haven’t talked candidly about its risks, they could find themselves more susceptible to cyber crime.

While digital natives may have been born to become internet wizards, they need just as much guidance as the rest of us. Safeguarding training gives those in charge the right tools to tackle online safety in a concise and meticulous manner. As technology develops, the internet is likely to become even more accessible — and it’s our duty to prepare children for whatever risks may occur in the future.

EduCare offers a range of online training courses that can help you provide the right support for the children in your care. Take advantage of the free trial for our Online Safety course, or for more information on the services we provide, call us today on 01926 436 211.

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