With our settings, and our society, increasingly high-tech, it has never been more vital to teach our children to use technology safely, says Rachel Ager…
We live in a rapidly changing technological society, and it is becoming ever more difficult to consider all the implications to child safety that the use of technology brings. As such, we need to work together to ensure its use never compromises the health and safety of the children in our care. The ‘Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage’ sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children are kept healthy and safe. Settings must also have regard to the government’s statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’. These two documents provide an obvious starting point when considering the e-safety of our young children.
Within ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ there is a section which considers child abuse within the context of an ICT environment. This states that the Internet:
● is used as means of contacting children with a view to grooming them for inappropriate or abusive relationships;
● may expose children to inappropriate material, adult pornography and/or extreme forms of obscene material.
How can settings protect children?
Settings can play their part with the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) in raising awareness about the safe use of the Internet, not only with their children but within the children’s families and the setting’s wider community. Additionally, young children should learn that:
● they should not use the Internet without an adult present;
● they cannot be sure of what they might see on the internet and that they might see some things that make them feel unhappy or uncomfortable;
● if they do see something inappropriate on the Internet they should turn off the monitor (or shut the lid of a laptop) and tell a trusted adult as quickly as possible.
It should be noted that parental permission should be obtained before children use the Internet within your setting.
The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage states that providers must ensure that “their equipment and toys must be safe for children to use”.
How can settings keep children safe?
Settings will have well-established procedures for ensuring that the equipment and toys that are accessible to their children are safe, but here are some additional points to consider:
● Children should never be allowed to handle batteries unless under the direct supervision of an adult.
● Battery covers should be screwed in place to prevent children accessing them.
● Spare batteries should always be stored out of children’s reach.
● Rechargeable batteries should always be charged out of children’s reach.
● Batteries should be changed regularly to prevent leakage.
● Lithium and coin-cell batteries are particularly dangerous as they are small in size and can be easily swallowed – and if they are swallowed, they pose several hazards, from choking to chemical burns and tissue damage. Saliva immediately triggers an electrical current which causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the oesophagus in as little as two hours. Coin-sized batteries are found in a number of everyday devices such as calculators, bathroom scales, flameless candles, talking and singing books and greeting cards.
Should always have batteries and/or electrical cable removed.
Computer workstations should be ergonomically appropriate:
● Adjust the monitor so that the centre sits at eye level.
● Children’s feet should be fully supported by the floor (a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable).
● The keyboard should be placed so that children’s upper arms hang vertically and forearms should bend no more than 20 degrees.
● The mouse should fit into a child’s hand comfortably and should be placed near the keyboard.
When using a data projector, children and adults should:
● never stare directly into the projector beam;
● keep their back to the beam as much as possible;
● avoid standing facing into the beam for more than a few seconds at a time;
● always step outside the projector beam when turning to face into the beam for more than a few seconds.
Children should always, therefore, be adequately supervised whilst a projector is operating, and have been trained to follow safe routines of projector use.
The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage states that a setting’s safeguarding policy and procedures must “cover the use of mobile phones and cameras in the setting”. Photographs provide an important source of evidence when documenting children’s achievements and progress; however, as highlighted in ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’, “the Internet has become a significant tool in the distribution of indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of children”, and this has been further exacerbated by the increase in the number of mobile devices with which digital photographs can be taken.
In order to protect both the children and staff, a setting should therefore have clear guidelines as to how cameras and mobile phones should be used within a setting, and I would recommend that:
● photographs are only taken using devices that belong to the setting and never using practitioners’ personal devices;
● memory cards are cleared before cameras leave the setting if they are to be used outside the setting.
It should be noted that parental permission should be obtained before children are photographed and that policies should contain details of how these photographs are used and stored.
A former primary school teacher, Rachel Ager is an internationally respected educational consultant who worked to develop the use of ICT in the EYFS.