The online risks to adolescents
For our pupils to be online and explore a world of opportunities and information is invaluable. The benefits of being online range from learning and creativity, to social connection with friends and family far and wide and the ability to learn from mistakes and be able to self-regulate. However, being online places both children and adults at risk of harm, so whilst we encourage our pupils to explore the cyber world, we also wish to keep them safe.
Research conducted at the academy shows that our pupils are at risk of harm and feeling threatened from contact with people both known and unknown to them. Our pupils were particularly concerned about online grooming and some discussed actual experiences of this. The research demonstrated that our pupils worry about arguments and conflicts they have on social media and in turn, this distracts them from sleep, from the moment and from their learning. Our pupils spoke about how their self-esteem was lowered because of comments made on social media. They also spoke of how younger children tried to act older by posting sexualised pictures of themselves on Instagram and Snapchat. Moreover, pupils spoke about the ease of accessing sexual content online and they raised sexting as a concern among their peers.
Our pupils explained about the fear of missing out (FOMO) and how they were often distracted from sleep and learning due to social media and online gaming. They said that they often received threatening chain mails late at night, which caused them to worry. Additionally, they spoke about getting into an argument with friends and not being able to sleep and sometimes they played games on their phones or tablets into the early hours of the morning. In summary, our pupils are at risk physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially.
So whilst we do not want our pupils to miss out on a world of online opportunities, we do want them to be safe whilst they explore this cyber world. At the academy, we have assemblies about online risks each term, these are accompanied by frequent form activities that include real-life stories. These risks are explored further in Cultural Studies, ICT, Media, Health and Social Care and English.
If you are worried about an online situation with your child or another pupil at EPA, please contact the relevant Head of Year for advice. Additionally, please contact the local police on 101 for support.