With children as young as 10 using social media, secondary schools need to use web filtering from year seven upwards and primary schools may need to use it too.
Ofcom's Children and Parents Media Use and Attitudes report found that 28% of 10-year-olds, 46% of 11-year-olds and 51% of 12-year-olds now have a social media profile.
This has prompted the NSPCC to call on the Government to act on the issue of under-age profiles.
The report also revealed parental awareness of the age limit was low. Eight out of 10 parents whose children use Instagram or Snapchat were unaware of the restrictions. And more than 4 in 10 said they would allow their child to use social media ahead of them reaching the minimum age required.
We have already raised the issue of schools limiting pupils’ social media access while on the school premises and monitoring what they are looking at to pick up any bullying behaviour or updates that may suggest suicidal thoughts, that they are victims of grooming or have been exposed to racial or radical content.
If schools allow their students to use their network to access social media in break times, they need to use an efficient web filtering service to block inappropriate content or to offer read-only access and also to provide granular reports on a ‘who, what, when and where’ basis.
Whereas schools may have thought they were covered by using web filtering from year eight upwards to monitor 13-year-olds and older on social media, they need to make sure year seven is included too. And then there are the primary schools. Clearly, children of primary school age need protection too.
Some schools will blanket ban the use of devices or social media on their premises, but there is a case for monitoring what they view by allowing access via the school network. If a school can see the content they are accessing, they can step in before any harmful situation gets out of hand.
Of course, schools cannot influence what their pupils access while at home or using another network, but they can ensure they maintain their duty of care while they are on their premises.
If your school needs advice on web and content filtering tools built for the education sector, do not hesitate to contact me.