Safe Search - Digital Literacy Dover

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Safe Search

Grade 5 are currently in the middle of a unit focusing on conflict; its causes, perspectives and the responsibilities of those associated with it

But in addition, this is the perfect kind of unit to learn about the importance of safe search, we can't really expect our kids to not search online to research and support their learning in this unit, as its fair to say that is now quite a (good) habit ... however, just typing in the keyword 'conflict' into a Google and hoping for the best is likely to result in some VERY dubious/shocking/inappropriate material.

You have been warned.

Rather than attempting to 'ban' search on a topic like this, this is a great time for students to learn some essential safe search skills, and this is an authentic context in which to do exactly that; especially ensuring that safe search is on in Google settings.

Now in school this should be activated by default, and when using the school GApps account they should have these settings automatically on, but it is never wise to rely on these things, and of course our kids are also likely to be working at home on a computer outside of the reach of the college, not logged in as themselves.

How Safe is Safe Search?

Well the answer to that is that it's as safe as search can be, which means, particularly with images, not that safe, as blocking images is very difficult (no keywords to allow identification). That's why we encourage our students in the primary school to use safe search sites. There are several 'kid friendly' search engines to use instead of Google, just google it, and you'll find some great search engines, like:

Also, get ask children to search Youtube EDU instead of just Youtube, and there are some great and appropriate conflict videos, search for yourself and you'll see the difference, the latter are curated for educational use, the former, are ... well ... definitely not.

Other sites well worth directing children to for safe research online are:

Wilful Misuse

Unfortunately all the safeguards in the world don't help if students are determined to search for inappropriate content, in the same way as we can't really stop kids from swearing on the playground. Some might call for us to ban it entirely, but this approach is not one that will actually educate them. In fact even if we were to lock down the internet at school, all we will do is create a false sense of security, so that when they use the internet at home, they are completely unprepared for the dangers of the 'wild wild web'. These are dangers that we need to use as an opportunity to learn in an authentic context, something I have already written about.

So we need to raise our students to understand that the internet is not a 'safe' place, but neither does it have to be a dangerous place. That's why my advice is to treat web browsers with much the same approach as we treat roads and playgrounds. Are they inherently dangerous? It depends on how you use them. When children are young, we would never dream of leaving them to cross the road alone, or play in playgrounds alone. But as they grow older, we teach them the dangers, and we teach them how to cross roads/play safely, until eventually, they are able to play unsupervised, and navigate the streets and highways of world, and the cyber highways alone.

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