With many children spending such a lot of their time playing, learning and communicating with one another on the internet nowadays, it is important for teachers, parents and children themselves to be aware of some of the risks associated with being online. This section of our website is intended to offer up to date advice and helpful resources on a range of e-safety matters including: online bullying; how to use social media safely and responsibly; gaming; and what to do if you see worrying things online.
If you’d like to talk to me or Mrs Mullane about specific concerns, or if there’s something you feel is missing here, please come and have a chat with me in school.
- The fantastic Parent Zone website recently published this excellent article featuring brief, up to date guides to some of the apps that are currently popular with young people. Many of these, especially musical.ly, are widely used by pupils at Mersey Vale (see more about musical.ly below). The recent updates to Snapchat (which allow users to see one another’s locations) are also explained in the article, along with some sensible and timely advice on how to talk about traumatic events with young children.
- Many apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Periscope are developing a ‘live streaming’ function, and this is becoming one of the most popular ways for young people to communicate with one another. While live-streaming can be fun and exciting, young people can be exposed to dangers such as bullying, talking to strangers and seeing inappropriate or upsetting material. The NSPCC’s Net Aware website recently published this article which gives more detail about how this new technology works and some of its associated risks.
- Hello Neighbor is a ‘stealth horror game’ which is gaining popularity amongst some Mersey Vale pupils. Although they are unable to access the game at school, it seems that many children enjoy playing this online game at home. The content and gameplay appear to be quite adult in nature. An age rating for the game is unavailable at present, but when I contacted the game’s developers to find out more about it they felt that it would probably be awarded a ‘teen’ rating when it is officially released later in the year. As well as playing the game itself, some of the pupils with whom I spoke also said that they enjoy watching ‘online walkthrough’ videos on youtube. These videos are home-made clips of someone playing a video game, such as Hello Neighbor or Minecraft, and adding a commentary as they play. The content of these videos, in particular the strong language that often features, is not always suitable for such a young audience.
- We have been alerted to the fact that many children at Mersey Vale are enjoying using a game called Roblox. The game looks fantastic from a perspective of teaching children basic coding skills, but it also carries some very real drawbacks and dangers. The game is created by its users, meaning that obscene and pornographic images can be posted by anybody with a Roblox account for children to see. Users also report frequent bad language and anti-social, bullying behaviour. It is also associated with computer viruses as children who want to get better at the game are drawn to other websites which claim to give them secret tips or ‘hacks’ to help them advance further, and these websites then install harmful viruses on your home computer or device. Perhaps most worrying though is the game’s chat function. Children from our school and other Stockport primary schools have been contacted on here by unknown figures, claiming to be children interested in playing the game, but who may well have been predatory adults. Please talk to your children about whether they use Roblox. Remind them of the need to only accept friend requests from people they know in real life, to never, ever give out personal information about themselves, and to report any images or behaviour to you and the game’s moderators that make them feel uncomfortable.
- Musical.ly is a website and app which has been very popular with some of our older Key Stage Two children this year. Users are able to upload videos of themselves singing or miming to pop songs, and it certainly looks like a lot of fun. The idea of sharing these videos with friends and family members seems harmless enough, but what many users do not realise is that, unless the correct settings have been activated, their videos can be seen by anyone with an internet connection. The site has a reputation for being used by predatory adults looking to chat with young children. Please talk to your child about whether they enjoy using this app and help them to ensure that their settings are fully private. Also remind them about the need to only accept friend requests from people that they know in real life.
- Lots of children at Mersey Vale enjoy using YouTube and some have set up their own YouTube channels to share videos of themselves. Although the age for having a YouTube account is thirteen we know that many of our younger children know how to get around this. Please talk to your children about whether they enjoy using YouTube and about their privacy settings in particular. This YouTube Parents Guide explains some of the ways in which we can support children to enable them to use YouTube safely.
- Pokemon Go is a gaming app that has become incredibly popular overnight. You may have even seen it on the news. The game looks like a lot of fun but comes with some very real safety risks. This document, produced by the NSPCC explains some of the potential risks, and the ways to reduce them, really clearly.
- Oovoo, a video chat app, is very popular with teenagers and is becoming more popular amongst older primary-aged children. Find out more about it in this ooVoo guide for parents
- AskFM is a social networking site based around users asking one another questions. It has been associated with cyber-bullying. Read more here: AskFM-Online-Safety-Guidance
- OurPact is a free parental control app which allows you to control and block the internet and Applications on individual devices in your home, teaching children proper device use and responsibility. The parental control solution gives parents the ability to manage their child’s screen time throughout the day. Parents can enforce bedtime, set dinnertime, manage study time and schedule family time throughout the day. By syncing your family’s iPads, iPhones, and iPods to OurPact, you can have the power to manage your entire family’s screen time & device use under one platform. Please click on attached link for more information: http://ourpact.com/ipad-parental-control-app
- Internetmatters.org has excellent, impartial advice on a very broad range of e-safety issues
- It’s Not Okay is a Greater Manchester based organisation working to end child sexual exploitation. Their website contains vital information about this issue including tell-tale signs to look out for and how to report suspicious activity.
- The Thinkuknow website is aimed at children rather than parents and is highly recommended. It’s packed with games, songs and cartoons, putting its messages across in a fun, clever way that children enjoy. The site is split into a section for children from 5 to 7(this is also mostly suitable for children under 5 too), another section for children from 8 to 10 and a section for older children aged between 11 and 13
- Parent Zone and Parent Info are linked websites containing advice for schools and families on a very broad range of e-safety topics. The sites are affiliated with CEOP, the part of the National Crime Agency committed to protecting children, so the advice they offer is very reliable and up to date.