A comprehensive national framework for online safety education is overdue, say a growing consensus of educators - and a new report commissioned by Australia's eSafety Commissioner provides a detailed blueprint for constructing it.
“Online safety education is more than curriculum — what to teach — and pedagogy — how to teach it. It must also include consideration of wider social conditions in which schools are located”
Best Practice Framework for Online Safety Education (Stage 1) June 2020
Based on a wide-ranging review of relevant research and best practice, the key findings from the June 2020 report, prepared by researchers from the Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, highlight the current gaps in online safety education for K-12, while addressing questions like;
The study found existing frameworks, both in Australia and abroad, lacked depth and scope. It called instead for a comprehensive, multicomponent approach, drawing on concepts of digital citizenship, social and emotional learning, and risk and protection - reflecting the full range of issues, risks and harms affecting both students and parents.
The study also highlighted the need to embed online safety holistically, across a broad range of school policies - including those around student wellbeing, acceptable use, incident reporting, bullying and codes of conduct.
The researchers identified four main content themes as forming the core of online safety education:
Digital citizenship - defined as equipping students with “the skills and knowledge to effectively use digital technologies to participate in society, communicate with others and create and consume digital content” safely and responsibly.
Social and emotional learning - understood as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Specific risks - timely, evidence-based information regarding cyberbullying, online sexual abuse, internet/gaming addiction, online pornography, hate speech, etc.
Help-seeking - education, training and support around preventing and responding to online safety issues as a protective factor against victimisation, and as a set of behaviour that can be taught and learned.
Advocating a system-wide approach to online safety education, the researchers strongly endorsed coordination within larger school systems and communities - eg. state and territory departments of education, Catholic diocesan education offices and other Independent school authorities - as opposed to ad-hoc school-by-school initiatives.
Specific recommendations called for school systems to:
Among other recommendations for improvement, the study advised school leaders to be alert to issues of duty of care and liability in negligence as they pertain to online safety, citing Principle 8 of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which requires that:
“Risks associated with [technological] platforms [be] minimised through all necessary means, including: education of children and young people, parents, staff and volunteers about expectations of online behaviour; the application of safety filters; and communication protocols."
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