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Primary school pupils to be taught vital media literacy skills with launch of free digital learning platform
Posted on: 27/05/2022
Internet Matters launches 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.
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 six 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 six 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, yet 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.
Ghislaine Bombusa, Head of Digital at Internet Matters, who led the creation of the platform, said: “There is a growing need to ensure young people not only stay safe online but have the media literacy skills they need to navigate their increasingly complex digital world.
“At a critical time in their development, we hope to help schools teach young people these skills in a supportive environment where they can practice making choices in realistic situations, all on an interactive digital platform.
“We also know the important role that parents play in keeping their children safe online, so the programme encourages their involvement, making sure that they feel empowered to support their children as they stumble across difficult situations online.”
Teachers and parents can access the Digital Matters platform for free here where content will be updated regularly with online safety topics in line with the Relationships Education curriculum and the UKCIS Education for a Connected World Framework.
Primary school teacher Lee Parkinson, who trialled the platform, said: “Being able to show kids the direct result of their choices online, when faced with difficult situations, such as sharing information or being confronted with fake news, allowed my class to make mistakes and learn how to make the right choices without the potentially nasty consequences.
“Whether we like to admit it or not, the age that kids use tech unsupervised is rapidly getting younger so issues like trolling, receiving nasty comments online and being tricked into sharing personal information is no longer just an issue for secondary schools to deal with and I feel the best form of prevention with all these issues is through education.”
Each lesson has been through the PSHE Association’s (the national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) robust quality assurance process.
The platform has been developed with support from one of Internet Matters’ long-standing partners, digital security experts, ESET.
Julie Berriff, UK Marketing Director at ESET said: “We’re delighted to continue our support for Internet Matters with this new innovative learning platform and are committed to helping as many children as possible.
“Ensuring children and families are safe and protected online is at the heart of our organisation and complements our existing Safer Kids Online programme and the ongoing support we give to Internet Matters.”
*Research undertaken with the independent research agency Opinium in December 2021, to N-1,066 parents with children aged 6-10 reflective of the UK population, and October 2020 to N-944 parents.
**The number of parents of six to 10-year-olds who said their child had been affected by exposure to fake news, misinformation or disinformation than the previous year, increased from just over 6% in October 2020 to almost 11% in December 2021. Nearly six out of 10 parents (59%) said they were concerned by it, an increase of 24% on the year before.
***The number of children of the same age who experienced online trolling or abuse from strangers more than doubled in the space of a year – from 6% to 13%. Experience of being bullied by someone they know increased by 31%.
****There was a 64% increase in children aged six to 10 having direct experience of both contact with strangers online (9.4%) and peer pressure to do things they wouldn’t normally do (9.3%).
****Parents of children in the same age bracket who gave away personal information online or had data collected about them without consent also more than doubled, from 5.8% to 12.5%
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