6 out of 10 teachers are worried about online safety of pupils who used the internet during lockdown

As children make the long-awaited return to school, our new campaign urges parents to stay switched on around their child’s online safety.

Online safety top concern as kids had back to school

Children’s online safety is emerging as a top concern in the new school year – as over half (53%) of teachers believe it is now more likely their pupils will experience issues as a result of lockdown.

Stay switched on campaign

Our new campaign aims to remind parents to “stay switched on” around issues their children might be facing, including cyberbullying, screentime, peer pressure, online grooming and viewing inappropriate content.

It comes as children spent more time using technology during lockdown – with two thirds (67%) of teachers saying access to tech is now more important for learning than traditional education equipment such as textbooks.

Teachers express worry about children’s digital safety

Yet the increased use of devices and smartphones has led to fresh concerns around children’s digital worlds – with six out of 10 (59%) of teachers admitting they are worried about the safety of pupils who have been using the internet more during the pandemic.

In the survey of over 1,000 teachers, almost all (96%) agree it is important for kids to have access to a connected device – such as a smartphone or laptop. Despite this, only 16% of teachers say that all of their pupils have access to one that can be used for learning.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of teachers agree that pupils who do not have access to a connected device are likely to have fallen behind over the last six months. And, over a third (36%) say kids without a connected device during lockdown were not able participate in lessons.

Online learning during lockdown

The study also found that whilst over half (56%) of teachers felt unprepared for remote teaching before Covid-19, the majority say it has had a positive impact on their (71%) and their pupils (65%) ability to use technology for learning.

Almost half (46%) of teachers agree that parents have done a great job home-schooling – with a third (32%) saying parents have done more teaching than they have during lockdown.

We’ve partnered with Matt Burton, Head Teacher of Thornhill Academy – best known as “Mr Burton” from Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire – to urge parents to “stay switched on” and adopt a collaborative approach to online safety, especially as tech will play a much bigger role in their child’s everyday life.

Mr Burton said: “Many parents have done a great job home-schooling their children over the last six months, despite busy work schedules.

“However, tech is becoming part of the new normal when it comes to teaching, so it’s important that parents have a good understanding of their child’s school’s online learning policy.

“It’s so important that parents and carers don’t think school is solely taking care of online safety now we’re back; it needs a joint approach, especially with so many areas facing local lockdowns.”

Adopting a collaborative approach to online safety 

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters said: “These figures highlight why it’s more important than ever for parents to stay on top of their child’s online safety.

“We know the back to school period is a pinch-point for online safety issues. Many children will own a phone for the first-time and some may not have seen their friends since March.

“This combined with tech playing an even bigger role in children’s everyday school life is why we are urging parents to stay switched on when it comes to their child’s online safety. Make sure to have open and honest conversations with your child about online safety and together you can help them make the best of everything the online world has to offer.”

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Internet Matters ambassador and child psychologist, said: “As online learning becomes part of the everyday, parents will be understandably concerned with how this may affect their child.

“Help your kids to adjust to this new normal by talking to them about it; ensure they are able to share their feelings about their experiences online.

“Talk to them about how to stay digitally safe and how to behave online versus real life. Also, set some clear boundaries with technology use at home and manage what they are doing online both inside and outside of school work.”

The research coincides with Internet Matters new advertising campaign. It reminds parents of the importance of online safety and empowers them to help their children navigate the use of connected technology smartly and safely. ‘The Online Facts of Life’ features real parents in an unscripted TV ad where they reflect their real-life concerns, challenges and experiences when it comes to their child’s online safety.

Resources document

Use back to school age guides to give children the right advice to deal with some of the online challenges they may face.

See guides
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