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Report calls for digital citizenship programme for every school

13/01/2017 Kelly

Schools are being called upon to do more to help students to prepare themselves for the potential risks posed by an increasingly digital world.

Anne Longfield, children's commissioner for England, has completed Growing Up Digital, a year-long study assessing how well children are prepared to engage with the internet, finding that at present youngsters are generally being left to fend for themselves online, and that schools should introduce digital citizenship programmes to address this problem.

It was shown that online usage among three to four-year-olds has increased from six hours and 48 minutes to eight hours and 18 minutes a week over the last year, while 12 to 15-year-olds are now spending more than 20 hours a week online.

In many cases, this includes extensive use of social media, but in most cases signing up to these services includes agreeing to often impenetrable terms and conditions that contain hidden clauses waiving rights to privacy and content ownership, which children have no means of understanding.

Digital life also makes children susceptible to exposure to bullying, harassment or other forms of harmful and inappropriate content online, with studies showing that children often do not know how to report concerns and are generally dissatisfied with any action taken when they do make a complaint.

As such, the report called for a broad-based digital citizenship programme to be made obligatory for all schoolchildren aged from four to 14 years of age, as well as for a digital ombudsman to mediate for children over removal of content and more transparent corporate behaviour by social media companies.

Ms Longfield said: "It is critical that children are educated better so that they can enjoy the opportunities provided by the internet whilst minimising the well-known risks.

"It is also vital that children understand what they agree to when joining social media platforms, that their privacy is better protected, and they can have content posted about them removed quickly should they wish to."

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