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Education for a Connected World

In this article, Karl Hopwood, looks at the new UKCCIS education framework for a Connected World and how it can help young people build resilience, develop critical thinking and become responsible users of technology.

Karl is an independent online safety expert. He is a member of UKCCIS (UK Council for Child Internet Safety) and sits on the advisory board for the UK Safer Internet Centre and the education advisory board for CEOP.

Mobile phones, tablets, the internet and social media play a significant role in all our lives and in particular in the lives of children and young people. Recent Ofcom research found that 74% of 12-15-year olds have a social media profile and that 99% of this age group go online for around 21 hours per week.

Clearly there are huge benefits to be gained from going online but also risks and challenges which need to be managed. The media are constantly reminding us of these with some shocking stories of things that have happened to children and young people when they have been online. On Safer Internet Day 2018, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety supported by the DfE and DCMS published Education for a Connected World, a framework designed to equip children and young people for digital life.

The framework was developed by the UKCCIS Education Working Group with colleagues from SWGfL and the UK Safer Internet Centre playing a significant role in writing the document. The idea is to map out the skills and competences that children and young people should have at different ages and stages in order to be able to navigate the online world as safely as possible, and perhaps more importantly, to know what to do when things go wrong.

The term 'online safety' encompasses an ever-growing number of different issues and the framework breaks these down into eight aspects:

  1. Self-image and identity
  2. Online relationships
  3. Online reputation
  4. Online bullying
  5. Managing online information
  6. Health, wellbeing and lifestyle
  7. Privacy and security
  8. Copyright and ownership

Beginning with the skills that the youngest children should have when they are starting school, the framework develops and builds on these until pupils are in their late teens and need to be taking full responsibility for what they are doing online and how this could affect others.

The framework is not intended to be a checklist where adults working with young people should slavishly highlight all of the areas that they think have been covered, rather as a tool to help adults who are working with children and young people to build up resilience, develop critical thinking and become responsible users of technology.

It aims to promote meaningful debate and move online safety education beyond some of the outdated messages such as don’t talk to strangers (online) or don’t give out any personal information (online). By addressing issues such as health, wellbeing and lifestyle, the framework is able to provide support for those who are trying to support young people when navigating their lives on social media.

Recent research from the UK Safer Internet Centre (released on Safer Internet Day) found that 8-17-year olds needed 214 followers on Instagram in order to feel happy. This begs the question what happens if they don’t hit that target? The framework suggests that 11-14-year olds should both recognise the benefits:

I can reflect on and assess the role that digital media plays in my life and give clear examples of where it benefits my lifestyle

as well as identify the challenges:

I can describe some of the pressures that people can feel when they are using social media (e.g. peer pressure, a desire for peer approval, “FOMO”)

Over the next few weeks we will be publishing a number of articles considering the different aspects of the new UKCCIS Education framework for a Connected World in more detail and looking at ways that it could be used by adults working with children and young people.