How to maximise parental involvement in online safety education
A great way to disseminate online safety information to parents is through a face to face awareness raising session about how to keep children safe online. In order to cover the required content that includes personal privacy, grooming, social media, bullying and online gaming these sessions take around an hour and for many schools are repeated annually and sometimes across different year groups.
It has long been recognised that in order to be effective, e-safety advice and guidance must involve a range of stakeholders; for schools the communication of online safety messages must include parents and carers.
A typical approach involves a presenter running a session that makes use of multimedia content from other agencies such as CEOP. Interaction with parents is key to ensuring that the needs of the audience are met; a lively presentation style retains the interest of those present.
Presentations can be run during the school day, immediately after school or in the evening and are typically run in a classroom or the school hall. Sessions run during the school day work particularly well just after parents have dropped off their children in the morning or during the final hour of the school day before children are due to be picked up.
One of the challenges faced by schools is getting parents to attend these important events. Those parents who fail to attend are missing out on important information. In addition, poorly attended sessions do not make good use of the school’s valuable time.
Six Tips to encourage attendance
- Make the event easier to attend – provide a ‘creche’
- Ask pupils to write the invitation for parents to attend
- Ask pupils to design a poster to encourage parents to attend
- Carry out a pupil survey with results to be announced at the event
- Use social media to invite parents
- Hand out flyers at the end of the school day and talk to parents to encourage them to attend
School Case Studies
Running a prize draw or offering incentives to attend can be an effective way to encourage parents to come to a presentation or workshop. The prize draw could be sponsored by a local company (Win an iPad or meal for two) and incentives could include a raffle, home-made cakes and drinks.
All parents attending the event receive detailed advice and are given resources.
There is an opportunity for questions and answers.
No guarantee of a high turnout.
Additional cost of prizes or the need to get a sponsor.
Transition event – E-safety drop in
The Dormston School in Dudley used a transition evening to promote e-safety to the parents of incoming year seven pupils using a dedicated e-safety drop-in desk. As each parent walked past the desk which contained online safety guides and resources, they were given a leaflet and the presenter was able to talk to them, familiarise them with the subject and address any specific questions relevant to them.
All parents attending the event were seen and given resources.
The advice given was specific to the parent.
A very limited amount of time to get over the range of messages.
No opportunity to see videos and other content.
Transition event – Short presentations
King Charles I School in Kidderminster gathered half the parents attending the transition event to a half hour meeting in the hall where they received important information about the school. This was followed up by a 15 minute e-safety presentation. The half hour session was repeated for the second cohort.
All parents attending the event watched a shortened version of the presentation that included a video and received a handout.
Some content had to be omitted due to time restrictions.
No time for questions and answers.
Parents assembly – Celebrating children’s work
Ruskington Winchelsea School in Sleaford ran an e-safety day. Later in the afternoon, all parents were invited to the hall for presentations from all the pupils demonstrating what they had learnt. This included presentations, songs and posters. Following the presentations from all the year groups, pupils left the hall and the parents were given a half hour e-safety presentation by a specialist.
Parents were invited to attend online safety lessons with classes during our day of e-safety at Blowers Green School in Dudley. This was followed up by a parents only workshops held in the ICT suite.
All parents were seen and given resources.
A reasonable amount of time to get over the range of messages.
Management resource to arrange a day of e-safety.
Some restrictions in terms of content.
St Columba’s College in St Albans and Coleg Llandrillo Menai have opted for an awareness bulletin/newsletter approach which is age related and does not have to be “whole school blanket”. The bulletins/newsletters (which can be in the form of small snippets) are in a digestible format, spread periodically throughout the year and often direct parents to video clips and Internet safety providers.
Can be topic or incident led.
In a digestible format and show an ongoing awareness of issues by the school.
An easy way to raise awareness.
Parents can ignore them.
No opportunity for interaction or Q&A’s.
Lack of in-depth knowledge and wider discussions and/or engagement.
Summary and conclusion
There is no magic formula for increasing attendance at these events but it is important for schools to continue to engage with parents in respect of passing on important online safety messages so it is worth considering different ideas to encourage attendance.
One initiative that definitely works is to get pupils involved. Setting up a team of digital leaders in school is a great way to spread the word.
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