At Clavering Primary School we appreciate that technology offers amazing opportunities and is constantly evolving. Access is currently becoming universal and increasingly more mobile, and pupils are using technology at an ever earlier age, as illustrated below:

Older children are spending more time online, and are more likely to go online alone. While children aged 5–15 continue to spend most time watching TV, children aged 12–15 are spending more time online (rising from 14.9 hours a week in 2011 to 17.1 in 2012) and now spend as much time in a week using the internet as they do watching television. They are also more likely than they were in 2011 to mostly use the internet in their bedrooms (43% in 2012 compared to 34% in 2011). Children who use the internet mostly alone comprise one in seven internet users aged 5–7 (14%), one in four aged 8–11 (24%) and over half of those aged 12–15 (55%) (OFCOM Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report, Oct 2012).

Children are going online via a wider range of devices. Internet access via a PC, laptop or netbook is increasingly being supplemented by access via other devices. All age groups are more likely in 2012 to go online using a tablet computer, and children aged 5–7 and 12–15 are also more likely to go online using a mobile phone (OFCOM, Oct 2012). Children aged 5–7 are also less likely than in 2011 to go online using a PC, laptop or netbook (58% in 2012 compared to 65% in 2011). Children of all ages continue to use social networking sites; 22% of those aged 8–11 and 80% of those aged 12–15, with those aged 8–11 having an average of 92 ‘friends’ and 286 for 12–15 year olds (OFCOM, Oct 2012).

Technology use and e-safety issues go hand in hand. Many incidents happen beyond the physical geography of the school and yet can impact on pupils or staff.

40% of Key Stage 3 and 4 students have witnessed a ‘sexting’ incident and, in the same group, 40% didn’t consider topless images inappropriate (Sharing personal images and videos among young people, SWGfL & Plymouth University, 2009).

28% of Key Stage 3 and 4 students have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones or the internet. For over a quarter of these, this experience was ongoing, meaning that the individual was continuously targeted for bullying by the same person or group over a sustained period of time (Virtual Violence II, Beatbullying, 2012).

Issues are magnified for ‘vulnerable’ children (for example disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs, looked after children); the internet bypasses normal safeguarding procedures thus making children who are adopted or fostered at greater risk of having their identities discovered. This could be by their birth parents searching for them or themselves wanting to discover who their birth parents are.

Girls are more likely than boys to be bullied online. Around 4% of those aged 8–11 and 9% of those aged 12–15 who use the internet say they have had experience of being bullied online in the past year. As with bullying through a mobile phone, this incidence has not changed for those aged 8–11 or 12–15 since 2011. Girls aged 12–15 are more likely than boys to say they have been bullied online in the past year (13% in 2012 compared to 5% in 2011).

Pupils with special educational needs are 16% more likely to be victims of online abuse; children from lower socio-economic groups are 12% more likely (OFCOM, Oct 2012).

Just because these environments are online make them no less susceptible to potential harm compared to the physical world. This makes it vitally important that pupils, parent, carers and staff are fully prepared and supported to use these technologies responsibly.