In the lead up to the launch of the new Netsafe Kit, Education Advisor Anjela Webster writes about her experiences navigating growing complexities with technology use and how the new Netsafe Kit can help schools.

The year is 2007. Social Media has arrived on our shores. My daughter wants a Bebo account. At school, much younger students already have accounts. “It’s cool – we get to meet up with our friends and chat online”. Parents ask, “What is a Bebo?”.

The year is 2010. iPads hit the shelves. It’s amazing – we’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s “sooo innovative”. A mobile computer that looks like a slim book, that connects to the internet and has a screen that you have to tap and swipe to make things happen. There’s so much that can happen! One word – “Apps”. Within a short few years iPads are seen in many primary schools, and children are observed to be ‘engaging in their learning’.

The year is 2013 and I am working with a classroom of Year 8 boys. I’m facilitating a session exploring ‘T’s and C’s’ online and why we should care about what we’re signing up to – looking at privacy settings and reporting features and reasons when we should use them – and debating the relationship and value of privacy online and offline. I had for some time been providing learning opportunities about ‘online stuff’ for students, particularly those soon to leave us for the ‘big schools’ at the end of the year. The underlying reason was a concern for what I was seeing in online spaces. Good kids making some poor choices in what they said online, what they posted, and what they ‘liked’.

I was informally assigned the role of being ‘that’ teacher who dealt with online incidents – we’d learn of these through whispers from other students, parents, or awkward moments when students were ‘caught out’ through the systems in place to protect users. Through trial and error and following school’s usual processes around online incidents, we forged protocols and responses that were becoming more effective.

My staple support and guidance came in the form of Netsafe, their evolving website, and their Netsafe Kit for Schools that provided templates for policies, user agreements, and surveys. It was great – my theory was, if Netsafe ‘says so’ then it was to be so – they were the experts. Thank goodness we had an organisation that had our kiwi kids in mind! They were leading the way in NZ with needed knowledge and resources and these provided me with ideas around what was important to share. Not only were protective approaches important to helping children and young people learn to manage themselves safely – there was the idea that a ‘citizenship’ approach was essential. Also, when we had more serious online incidents, a quick phone call to Netsafe was met with a friendly hello, and situations were usually quickly resolved with the removal of content when it conflicted with ‘Terms and Conditions’ of Facebook or Bebo back in the day.

Fast forward – I now work for Netsafe (smile). I am privileged to be part of an awesome team providing guidance, support and solutions around online safety to schools, parents/whānau, young people and other New Zealand citizens.

Importantly, as knowledge and digital technology have evolved, and legislation around harmful digital communications been introduced, the types of supports and guidance have also broadened. With this in the forefront, over the last six months we’ve been working flat out behind the scenes and we’re delighted to be launching our new Netsafe Kit for Schools.

This Kit has a raft of new tools, resources, information and ideas for school leaders and educators for today’s landscape. If we’re going to be effective in meeting the needs of today’s young, we need to be working in new and sustained ways. Not in isolation with one teacher carrying the responsibility, but as a school of leaders, great teachers, young people themselves, and their wonderful community.

Complexities and challenges in this space are not going to go away, so adopting a proactive approach is essential. Where I sought a coherent, intentional direction to help me support students (and their parents/caregivers) around all things online, this new Netsafe Kit goes much further – providing a broad strategic approach across key areas of the school, tools to help scope students, staff, and community on their perceptions and needs, classroom resources across Years 1- 13, ideas for engaging with community, managing online incidents, guidance on policies and user agreements, information on the Harmful Digital Communications Act and more.

Excitingly, it offers schools an opportunity to begin a relationship with Netsafe and to become a ‘Netsafe’ School – staying looped in, building capacity and confidence across time, and across the school with students, staff, and community. I think back to where I was and what I needed, what our school needed – and I know there’s many people out there just where I was. As a result, a coherent and intentional Kit has been built with you in mind!

We can’t wait to hear how it goes, and ways we can continue to support you.

The new Netsafe Kit for Schools will launch in June 2018. Sign up to be the first to know about the new Kit and for the latest tips about online safety for schools.