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Weak versus Strong Digital Safety Culture: A day in the life of two schools

A fly on the wall view of the difference between the impact of a school with a weak digital safety culture vs a strong digital safety culture:

A school with a weak Digital Safety Culture

It’s Sarah, the quiet girl in the black of the classroom that unnerves you. Your lessons are often held up by Ethan and Jayden. You have tried sitting them apart or together. Either way, not much work is achieved by these two. It can take a while for you to notice they have gone off task again and so much learning time is missed. The whole class is held up at the end of each task as they find some way of making their computer make silly noises when everyone else is trying to concentrate. You often end up reducing your lesson down to the minimum expectations.

But this girl, Sarah, seems to have had the weight of the world on her shoulders in recent weeks. Her attitude has changed. She seems withdrawn and switched off from learning. One day you keep her behind after class. She tells you that she has no concerns and that she is just a bit tired. The next week you ask a couple of her peers, but both say they are unaware of any problem.

Mason has started not turning up to school. As you are also his pastoral tutor, you call home. His parents cannot understand why he is not at school but are also having problems. Suddenly last night, Mason did not return home at all and the parents are desperately trying to use social media to find out where Mason is.

Then there’s Addison and Kimberley. Addison texted a YPSI (youth produced sexual imagery) to his best friend Rob. He told Rob not to show anyone else the photo, but Rob sent it to another friend who uploaded it onto a bait out website. This was then quickly shared across the school community. Kimberley hasn’t returned to school since.

A school with a strong digital safety culture

Sarah, the quiet girl at the back of the class has been bullied by her peers. Your school DSL has informed you as the school digital monitoring system alerted them to some online chat messages sent to Kimberley and about Kimberley. The school are following it up with their strategy for combatting bullying and updating the digital safeguarding records. At least it was caught early.

You know Ethan and Jayden are always going to be your big lesson distractors. They need jumping on frequently and luckily your classroom management system pinpoints when they have yet again fallen off task so that you can quickly refocus and engage them.

Mason has recently been caught in some concerning messaging involving someone from outside school trying to get him to sell drugs. Luckily, the school monitoring system caught a conversation a few weeks ago and the man involved has been found and arrested. The school have now discovered that Mason’s dad is ill, and he has been worried about the family having enough money. The school have involved Safeguarding Partners and making sure support is put in place to lessen Mason’s vulnerability.

The school have introduced a digital safety education programme for students, staff and parents. Students have learnt about their digital footprint and how to be a responsible digital citizen. They know the dangers of creating and sharing photos. Addison and Kimberley have been dating for a couple of weeks. With the right education programme in place, hopefully their relationship will stay between the two of them.

Building a strong digital safety culture in schools

The two parallel stories above represent the importance of ensuring you have a strong digital safety culture in your school. It is impossible for one safety element to protect against all risks, but by using a robust infrastructure alongside a good education programme, pupil outcomes will improve. Read How to build a digital safety culture for the whole school community to see how schools are implementing a vigorous digital safety strategy.

If you have any questions about any aspect of online safety in your school, get in touch with the Smoothwall team today. We’d be delighted to help.

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