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Highland Council's education committee is shining a spotlight on keeping school pupils safe online with a briefing from a specialist officer

By Scott Maclennan

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Education Chairman Cllr John Finlayson.
Education Chairman Cllr John Finlayson.

Keeping pupils safe online came under the spotlight at Highland Council’s Education Committee meeting this week.

A presentation was delivered to councillors by Collaborative Lead/Online Safety Officer Robert Quigley.

Highland school’s Online Safety Centre includes helpful advice and resources to empower parents, pupils, and staff to better understand digital spaces.

Highland is thought to be one of very few (if not the only) local authority in the UK with a dedicated resource for online safety.

There are a number of challenges facing young people using social media and online gaming.

This can include:

  • Not fully appreciating that hurtful comments/words posted online, will have the same impact on another person as if said face-to-face
  • Not being fully aware of how to change settings/block/report
  • Children becoming immersed and finding it extremely hard to stop playing
  • Spending too much money on ‘in-game’ purchases such as loot boxes and skins
  • Difficulty in distinguishing between the game world and ‘real’ world
  • Parents being unaware of what a game is really about, difficult to judge a game from just the title
  • Grooming and bullying via ‘in-game’ chat

Collaborative Lead/Online Safety Officer, Mr Quigley said: “As more children across Highland access the online world for learning and personal use, it is essential that we provide them with the tools they need, to do so as safely as possible. Highland schools are being supported to provide these tools not only to the pupils, but to school staff and to parents and families.

“Highland Council's approach to online safety has been recognised nationally and lead the way forward by taking a proactive and positive approach to both embracing digital learning and ensuring our children are digitally safe.”

Education Committee chairman, Cllr John Finlayson said: “Digital and online learning is continuously advancing, it is fast paced and keeping up to speed can at times feel daunting.

“Highland’s Online Safety Centre is easily accessible to allow people to navigate different advice and information to better understand digital tools such as parental controls, mobile apps, and social media platforms.

“This extensive resource will be regularly updated and allows us all an opportunity to embed a safe online environment into the education curriculum both in school and at home.

“Of course, the many lessons learned through engagement with the Online Safety Centre, are also transferable to life outside school and an ever changing society where the digital world, is central to so, much that happens.”

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