Teaching children to stay safe online – the European picture
18 March 2010
New research from Eurydice at NFER shows how 30 European countries teach online safety. The risks to children that the ICT curriculum aims to prevent relate to five main areas: giving out personal information, seeing pornography, violent or hateful content online, cyberbullying, receiving unwanted sexual comments and meeting an online contact offline.
Education on Online Safety (OS) is included in the school curriculum in 24 of the 30 European countries or regions, but it is implemented through a range of different paths and levels of intensity. Specific topics include:
Online safe behaviour: this is a common theme in all the countries. It focuses on raising awareness that there are individuals who may have a sexual or other illegal interest in children and may use technologies to befriend and get close to them ('grooming'). Students are taught not to reveal any personal information, or give out their address, name of their school, telephone numbers, etc.
Privacy issues: students are shown how to develop the ability to keep their life and personal affairs out of public view, or to control the flow of information about themselves.
Contact with strangers: guidance is present in 80% of curriculum documents that include OS. Children are advised that the process of getting close to them happens through a progression of manipulation and persuasion, in many cases without the child noticing it. To avoid any kind of physical injury, children are recommended never to meet someone that they know online face to face without telling an adult. They are also advised always to meet in a public place.
Cyberbullying: students are advised about the ways in which cyberbullying can take place via e-mails, or instant messages; posting nasty pictures or messages about others in blogs, profiles, homepages or on websites; and/or using someone else's user name to spread rumours or lies (stolen identity). In all cases, children are advised to communicate with their parents and school tutors and not to remain silent about any incident.
Other topics include download and copyright issues, safe use of mobile phones, computer games addiction, internet shopping and computer viruses.
In most countries, the responsibility for teaching online safety is shared by the ICT teacher and other colleagues, or external experts.
Broader developments include educational authorities establishing public-private partnerships to promote online safety for young people, and private companies supporting education authorities to buy computer equipment or software, to protect internet connections, and to monitor undesired external access to school computers and networks.
Sharon O’Donnell, Head of the Eurydice Unit for England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the NFER, said: “This research shows that most European countries are taking the issue of children’s online safety seriously. However, as topics related to online safety were only introduced to ICT curricula during the last three or four years in most of the countries, it’s too early for evaluations of the impact of these messages on general performance and behaviour.”
Education on Online Safety in Schools in Europe is available from the Eurydice website at:http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/thematic_studies_en.php
Notes to editors
The research was carried out by the Eurydice information network on education in Europe, to support the European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme. NFER’s International Information Unit hosts the Eurydice Unit for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in this pan-European network. As such, NFER colleagues co-ordinated the collection of information on England, Wales and Northern Ireland for inclusion in the publication.
The European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme aims to empower and protect young people online, by promoting a safe and responsible use of Internet and other communication technologies and by fighting illegal and harmful online content and conduct. In order to implement the Programme, the European Commission is seeking to identify how national education systems approach online safety issues faced by children and what children learn about Online Safety in school.