If you wouldn't do it offline, don't do it online.
If you wouldn’t do it in the real world, then don’t do it in the virtual world. Web 2.0, blogs, wikis, Social networking, IM, the constant drive towards smarter and faster communication leaves many adults behind. Yet for our children this is simply the world that they live in. For them life without these technologies is as difficult for them to imagine as it would be for us to live without the telephone.
Many teachers talk about their lack of confidence when talking to children and young people and trying to educate them about how to stay safe on line. Teachers are unfamiliar with the technologies. They have little or no understanding about the types of things that take place using these “web 2.0” technologies. Yet do they need to? We all have a moral code and have values in life that we stand by. These morals and values should remain constant in all aspects of our lives and as such they should apply to both online and offline spaces.
Teachers are very confident when sharing what is acceptable with children and young people in their care. Although an understanding of technology can be helpful when talking to them about their behaviours in an online world, it is not a pre-requisite. The rules can be simple, if you wouldn’t do it in real life then don’t do it online.
Often making a direct comparison between the online and offline worlds can be helpful for children and young people to grasp the enormity of what they are doing. For example, would they be prepared to stick posters up all around the school which poked fun at a member of the school staff? Would it be acceptable to use profanity? Would it be alright to post phone numbers, provocative pictures and other material? The answer is NO. Although doing this from the safety of their house or bedroom can help to add to their feeling of security, children and young people need to realise that once something is posted online anyone can see it and they can never guarantee to take it back. Someone somewhere may have copied it and they will never know.
We mustn’t ban children and young people from using these technologies, but we must ensure that they have the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to keep them safe while they are using them.