Dangers to children and young people fall into three categories:
- contact - meeting strangers online who may seek to harm them
- content - accessing upsetting, harmful or otherwise inappropriate material
- commerce - being targeted by aggressive marketing messages which are difficult to distinguish from factual content.
School policy and procedure
Schools and colleges can take a number of steps to minimise these risks:
- technology - establishing a 'safe place for learning' by installing filtering systems and monitoring software
- education - teaching young people about the dangers and how to make responsible choices to protect themselves
- regulation - putting in place a series of rules and procedures to minimise opportunities for unsuitable or inappropriate internet use.
Many schools ask pupils and students to agree to an 'acceptable use policy', which may include an undertaking by users to act responsibly and use the internet for course-related work only, an agreement that users will respect copyright and not to plagiarise others' work, and information on sanctions for violations of the agreed acceptable use policy.
Guidance and examples of acceptable use policies can be obtained from the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE).
More information on these issues, as well as a useful chapter on using the internet in your teaching, can be found in ATL's publication Your safety net: exploring the issues of safe learning on the Internet.
Another useful source of advice is Childnet International.