Online Safety During Covid-19 – Young people give advice for Teachers and Professionals

Posted on 02 March 2021

Throughout the pandemic, Childnet has continued to work with young people and to listen to them about their experiences online. We have spoken directly with young people in our Youth Advisory Boards, our Digital Leaders Programme, our Digital Champions as well as more generally in the  schools we run session in about many aspects of their lives online.

As schools in England get ready to return to in-person learning on the 8th March, this blog will share some of the ways in which young people have said their experiences online have changed during the pandemic, and give advice for how  teachers and professionals can support them.

Positive aspects of life online

“It’s a way to connect and it’s fun.”

More than anything else, young people have told us how important the internet has been for them throughout the pandemic. It has allowed them to stay connected with each other, to work or learn, and to find support and information in the most unusual and difficult of times.

“Streaming services have kind of got me through lockdown because there’s not really much else to do”

We often hear from young people that online safety sessions in school do not always  acknowledge the positive aspects of life online. For teachers and professionals working with young people it’s important to recognise how the internet has provided strength and support, especially during the pandemic. 

“If parents and teachers and carers let us know how to use it [the internet] to our benefit … it’s not all bad, it’s a really good tool but this is how we should kind of keep in contact and kind of stay a bit more positive.”

By starting with the good things that young people are experiencing on the internet, teachers can frame the conversation in a positive way and make it more meaningful.

Conversation starters teachers and professionals can use:

  • How has the internet helped people during the pandemic?
  • What is your favourite part of life online?
  • What’s the best thing you saw or did online during lockdown?
  • What are your favourite apps for staying in touch with friends and family?
  • If you could tell me one thing you want me to know about the internet, what would it be?

Misinformation and fake news

“I think it’s a lot more prevalent now because we basically live online now.”

Young people tell us that the pandemic has increased the amount they are engaging with news and information online, but has also increased the spread of untrue or misleading content.  

“You can’t avoid it, it’s always going to be out there and with Covid it’s elevated so we need to know how to approach it ”

Helping learners to critically assess information they see online will help them to avoid believing scams or stories that are sensationalised, worrying or dangerous. Talking with young people about the fact that not everything online is true or trustworthy is an important first step. It’s also useful to equip young people with strategies to check for trustworthiness online. These might include checking information on official sites and speaking to an adult.

Resources published for Safer Internet Day 2021 focus on this topic and include downloadable lesson plans and activities for all ages:

Resources you can share directly with young people:

For 7-11 year olds:

For 11-18 year olds:

Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time

“I’m always looking at screen whether it’s for school or with friends.”

During the pandemic, many young people have been very aware of an increase in the amount of time they are spending on their devices, both for socialising and schoolwork.

“My Screen Time has reached new limits that I did not know was possible.”  

They tell us that although they know it is important to take breaks and enjoy other activities, technology has become a bigger part of daily life than ever before. This can leave them feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and under pressure to always be available.  

“I think it’s important for parents and teachers to encourage people to focus on things other than social media as well.  Because I spend my entire day on a call from 8 until 3 so it’s just important that they encourage us, after that, to take a break and focus on something else.

To support young people with their digital wellbeing, it may be more beneficial to consider how time online is being spent and the benefit of those activities, instead of focusing on the amount of time spent online. Encouraging young people to pay attention to how being online is affecting their mood and emotions is also helpful.

Resources you can deliver with young people:

Resources you can share directly with young people:

For 7-11 year olds:

For 11-18 year olds:

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