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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

It's Safer Internet Day today!

Today is Safer Internet Day, with a focus this year on learning to be safe online together, intergenerationally. I think this is a great focus as I think often some of the 'be safe online' advice that we are encouraged to give to the young is too broad and basic, and starts from too scared a position. It's like the standard 'stranger danger' advice given to primary age children that makes me more than a little nervous. Kids are, statistically, more at risk from people known to them than strangers, and many younger kids are led to believe that greeting neighbours (whom you see often but don't 'know' in any real sense) is dangerous or somehow bad.

So let me tell you about the positive things I've gained from online networking:

  • reassurance when having my children, from others expecting in the same month
  • friendship and stretching discussions from special interest groups in a range of areas: crafts, tarot, books
  • thought-provoking debate from other women on postgrad courses with a women's studies element 
  • conversation and resources from others teaching the same subject and age group as me 

All of the above come from specific communities that I have opted into (and often opted out of again as circumstances change and interests and time availability shifts), and all have, above all, offered me the support that can only come from shared experience. This is the big thing that the internet allows which we can't replicate elsewhere: we can find people who are doing/experiencing/feeling the same as us. The scale of the internet makes this easier than it would be to do physically, as well as the fact that it is easy to browse in quite a utilitarian way online. It's less easy (and less socially acceptable) to wander around locally looking for people with similar interests, whereas online groups are clearly and explicitly set up to enable this kind of niche networking.

These are the things that I would want to celebrate about online networking. Of course, kids need help and advice to help protect them from predators, and to help them realise the effects of cyberbullying, but not to the extent that they are discouraged from finding online friends. I wouldn't want to deny my daughters the sort of invaluable support and friendship that I have found online.

2 comments:

  1. I agree Beth. We were looking at the SMART rules in class and one is don't meet up. Which did make think, but what about all the mum's groups I went to, and the bloggers that I've met or the writing group. The rules are very genera and the internet is far more wide-ranging. It's something that needs to be tacked at home as well as in schools.

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  2. This is a great post. I agree the internet is fabulous for networking. It's a case of being sensible with children. I have told my daughter she can't use Facebook/Twitter/YouTube until she is 13. There was a primary age child who connected with me on Twitter last night and instantly asked if I knew her school (naming the school). That sort of thing terrifies me... children are so innocent, I don't think they should be on certain places until they are able to really understand that not everyone online is who they make out they are.

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