Navigating an Online World, Together

At GEMS Education, we have always focused on the wellbeing, safety and welfare of our students and staff. Our Head of Child Safeguarding and Child Protection, Sara Hedger, discusses the complexities of online behaviours and provides tips to role model and guide our children to be safe in a virtual world.

The current global pandemic continues to dominate world headlines, with what seems a continuous stream of media opinion, graphs, negative messaging and posturing amongst many world leaders; it can seem overwhelming. Add to this the current restrictions globally to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and worries about social isolation, loneliness, excessive screen time, online safety, finances, the economy and poor mental health is starting to become more prevalent in adults and children.

When asked to create a system for remote learning that would ensure relevant, high quality, fun learning for all students, GEMS teachers and leaders rose to the challenge. Feedback from children and parents is overwhelmingly positive.

The internet is a great tool for allowing children to explore, learn, play and communicate but there are risks as well, for which sometimes, we as parents feel unprepared. When things go wrong, it is easy to blame the technology instead of looking at the causes of the issue and fixing the behaviours. The good news is that GEMS has always had safeguarding at the centre of everything we do. We have a dedicated team centrally and trained staff in every school in the group who are responsible for ensuring that our students are protected from abuse and harm, this includes knowing how to behave safely online. Also, GEMS has a very experienced central IT team who work with technicians in schools to keep our systems performing optimally and safely.

GEMS has always valued the wellbeing, safety and welfare of its students and staff equally with academics. The move to remote working has rightly caused everyone, globally, to examine not just what they teach, but how they teach it safely. We are here to help you navigate the online world together.

There are some simple principles for safe behaviours online:

Talk to your child. Research shows that children whose parents have open discussions with their child about what they do online are more likely to tell and seek help from them or another safe adult. If you are unsure about how to open a conversation with your child, seek advice from your teacher or school Counsellor, they can help.

Remind everyone (adults included) that online and offline human behaviour should be the same. If you wouldn’t say something to or share something in person, why would you think it is ok to do so online? Being kind looks similar offline and online.

Check the safety settings on all devices regularly and talk to your child about what to do if they experience something they are uncomfortable with online.

In the last couple of weeks, as social distancing and self-isolation continues, I have begun to notice a change, with more articles and information in social media focusing on community building, selfless acts, kindness and helping others. There are numerous examples of GEMS students demonstrating our GEMS Jewels of Kindness and Respect values and as we begin to move towards Ramadan, it is these basic values that
help frame our responses to adversity.

I truly believe that we are all in this together and never has there been a more important time to take a breath and explore what is really important to us. Role model to our children the appreciation of others, including friends, and family and help them to understand how even the smallest kindness can make a big impact.

Stay safe.