With Safer Internet Day being in February, the team of pupils who make up our Digital Leaders helped to come up with a survey to find out what children in our school are doing online. Children completed this anonymously in January 2019 on the laptops and the Digital Leaders analysed the results to see what we need to address in our school.
Some of the main things we learned are:
80% of pupils say they watch videos on YouTube
30% of pupils say they make comments online
26% of pupils say they chat online to people who they have never met in real life
We understand that YouTube can be a fantastic place to find entertainment and learn about almost anything but, especially for our children, there can be some risks when we are not careful.
As a school, we sometimes use YouTube to host videos and we do the following to keep the children safe:
- Adults are in charge of recording and posting
- We only post videos of children for whom we have permission
- We never let viewers know the name of any individual
- We label our content as for (or featuring) children to activate safety features such as disabling comments.
With adult support, YouTube can be great. But it is when children are using it alone that there can be problems.
The main concern for most parents is what the children are watching. Although YouTube has certain community guidelines to prevent criminal or offensive content, there are still plenty of creators who are making videos aimed at adults, which are inappropriate for children. One way of stopping children from seeing these is by making sure they only use the YouTube Kids app that you can install on a tablet or phone. Another (which our Digital Leaders have taught us) is by turning on "restricted mode". YouTubers should mark their content as "age restricted" if it is for adults and restricted mode will hide these videos.
However, the best way to know that your children are safe when watching YouTube is to always make sure they are with an adult. Children are inquisitive and, if they really want to watch something that they know they shouldn't, they will find a way to turn off restricted mode or use a different browser or app if they are alone.
Videos that are spreading hate or you think that are breaking YouTube's community guidelines can be reported by clicking the ... below the video.
Another concern is that your child may read nasty comments or get involved in conversations with strangers in the comments section. Comments are hidden when in restricted mode, so this is another excellent reason to turn it on. The Digital Leaders have created a video with some more advice for you and your children.
Offensive comments can be reported the same way as videos can (click the three dots to the right of the comment).
One of the biggest safety concerns for our children comes when they want to emulate their favourite YouTubers and post videos of themselves. Children under the age of 13 should not even have accounts. This is to protect them from a number things:
- Mean comments and cyber bullying
- Being watched and contacted by strangers
- Being embarrassed by old videos when they grow up
- Revealing personal details like their location
- Making themselves look vulnerable to people with bad intentions
What is potentially even more dangerous these days is the introduction of live streaming (also a concern on Instagram, Twitch, TikTok etc.). When children do this, they cannot edit out or take back anything they say or do. If a stranger is watching, they can send live messages that appear on the screen which could be upsetting to the child or may encourage them to do inappropriate or dangerous things. Children can be very vulnerable to suggestions because, understandably, they want praise, approval and "likes".
We recommend that children never post videos of themselves, however, if you believe that they have something great to share then make sure that a parent or carer is in charge. The first questions anyone should ask before making a video are "Why do you want to make the video?" and "Who is going to watch it?"
- be in charge of the account and have the password
- help make the videos and be aware of what is being posted
- help to edit the videos (with apps like iMovie)
- turn off commenting when you post
- investigate the people who subscribe to them
There are many successful YouTube channels by children and their parents, but they are well thought out, involved a lot of hard work and have something worthwhile sharing. Here are two examples (we're sure your children know of lots more):
The most obvious thing in these videos is that the parents have spent a lot of time with their children, collaborating and sharing the experience. This is vastly different to what a stranger sees when children record themselves alone on their phone.
The most important thing that parents and carers should do is start a conversation with their children about what they do online.
We continue to work with the children to make sure they know how to keep themselves safe online. There are also plans for sessions to support parents and carers in learning how to protect their children.
If you have questions, please ask a member of staff and we will book an appointment to sit down with you and help. In the meantime, check out the following resources: