A new government strategy will see lessons in how to use the internet safely become part of the curriculum from 2011.
The strategy, called ‘Click Clever, Click Safe' will be taught to primary school children in England who will learn to block and report inappropriate content with the ‘Zip it, Block it, Flag it' campaign.
The strategy was drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and will be launched by the Prime Minister at the first UKCCIS Summit in London today.
The government has also announced today that all 270,000 computers to be provided under the Government's Home Access scheme will incorporate the CEOP Advice, Help, Report button, to help children and their families quickly report inappropriate content or internet approaches from strangers, as well as get help and advice on issues such as cyber bullying, viruses and hacking.
Ed Rowley, field product manager EMEA at M86 Security, claimed that it was a fantastic idea, although he questioned the choice of ‘Zip it' as part of the name, and said that it should be called ‘Lock it, Block it and Flag it' or ‘Lock it, Block it and Clock it'.
Rowley said: “Schools give lessons to prepare for working life and many will be spent in front of a computer, you cannot assume that parents will understand the security implications as kids are digital natives and parents are digital immigrants. As part of education it is exceptionally good news as it is an essential part of education and it is what they need to know.”
Children's Secretary Ed Balls said: “The internet presents tremendous opportunities for young people, but with this come risks. Online safety is an issue of growing importance for parents and families who rightly have concerns about what their children see and do online.
“New standards on internet safety mark a watershed in government and industry cooperation. I am pleased some of the biggest names in the industry, including Microsoft, Google, and Bebo are giving it their backing. In addition, our new digital code will provide a handy tool for children and parents to give them the confidence to know how to protect themselves online.
“But I know that there's even more we can do to educate children and young people, who are using online media at an ever earlier age. That's why we are making online safety a compulsory part of the primary curriculum from 2011.”
However, speaking to BBC News, Anastasia de Waal of think-tank Civitas, said that as the curriculum is already massively overstretched it will not have much of an impact as teachers would skip ‘over a lot with not much depth' and it would be much better for teachers to talk about everyday situations, including websites, rather than teaching it in isolation.
Commenting on de Waal's claims, Rowley said: “This is ridiculous. Enabling them on using the internet will help schools prepare for the curriculum rather than clog it up and there is nothing negative about it.”
Francisco Abreu Martin, president and CEO of Optenet, said: “The way that the internet continues to accelerate in the workplace, at schools and at home, security is needed to keep children and young people from harmful content online.
“Current protection on social network websites is very limited, and more research on this topic is urgently needed to ensure the safety of our children online. It is essential for governments to start taking responsibility and working closely with network providers and security experts, to implement parental control within the education sector on a national level. In addition, legislation must be put in place imminently to help move things forward effectively.”
This week Facebook announced a global safety advisory board to consult on online safety issues, with one of the first projects to overhaul the safety so that the resources are more comprehensive and include content that is specifically tailored to the needs of parents, teachers and teens.
Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications and public policy at Facebook, said: “We believe that the only way to keep kids safe online is for everyone who wants to protect them to work together. The formation of a board to advise specifically on safety issues is a positive, innovative and collaborative step towards creating a more robust safety environment, and we are thrilled that such a well-respected, trusted group of organisations has joined us in this endeavour.”