What is Digital Matters?
Today we launch Digital Matters, a free online safety and media literacy education platform helping pupils deal with the issues they are most likely to face in the digital world.
The platform, created with support from digital security company ESET, will build the critical thinking skills they need to tackle a range of issues such as fake news and misinformation, as well as teach children about cyberbullying, online grooming, peer pressure and keeping their personal information secure.
Specifically aimed at primary school pupils in Years 5 and 6 (upper KS2 in England and Wales and P6 & P7 in Scotland and Northern Ireland), Digital Matters has been designed to enable parents and teachers to work together to educate and support children at the age they start spending more time in online environments.
The lessons see children being asked to navigate a number of different situations they are likely to encounter online. Based on real-life scenarios, they will be able to discuss the issues in class and learn how to make the right choices in a safe space.
Research into online safety concerns
It comes as new research of UK parents* shows how there has been significant increases within 12 months in both concerns and experiences of primary school aged children across a range of different online safety issues.
The number of parents of 6 to 10-year-olds who said their child had been affected by exposure to fake news, misinformation or disinformation more than doubled compared to the previous year**. More than twice as many children of the same age experienced online trolling or abuse from strangers.***.
There was also significant increases in children aged 6 to 10 having direct experience of contact with strangers online, peer pressure to do things they wouldn’t normally do and giving away personal information online****.
The survey also shows that parents believe schools should play a key role in teaching children about online safety, and 82% would welcome more dedicated education delivered within schools.
The new platform has been created following extensive research and consultation with primary school teachers. Those who took part in the research said that they needed a central place to find resources, more help with lesson plans due to time constrictions and more collaboration with parents at home, so messages could be reinforced outside of school hours.
Teachers can share companion resources with parents from the platform so parents can continue the learning at home, supporting a joined-up approach to online safety education between teacher and parent.
It also allows them to teach online safety and media literacy in a digital environment, with the flexibility of having offline materials to suit different teaching styles.