e-Safety Strategy Launch event

15th November 2009

Last Tuesday I helped to launch Birmingham’s e-Safety Strategy on behalf of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board.  My presentation, which is below, talked about the different work that Digital Birmingham has done around the Home Access agenda and then covered Social Networking Sites as a new technology being used by young people that professionals don’t always have a full understanding of.

So I spoke about the Aston Pride project to provide computers in the homes of primary and secondary school children and also the Computers for Pupils grant which has been used by the city to launch 40-50 Birmingham e-Learning Foundation schemes in Secondary Schools across the city. The latter means that more money is coming back in to the system to help provide kit to more kids.

The next initiative that we will be promoting to Birmingham families, primarily through its schools, is the Home Access Grants Scheme.  Under this families who are eligible for Free School Meals can apply for grants through which they can buy approved packages of computers, Internet connectivity and support.  It is a central government project which will be run through Becta.

I then gave a description of Social Networking Sites and how people, and especially young people, are using them.  To finish off I gave an idea of how this might be used in practice by showing some of the uses that Oliver Quinlan and 4OQ at Robin Hood School have been making of social networking sites as part of their 1:1 Learning Programme.

It was certainly the final part of the presentation that provoked the most discussion, with people’s opinions in the room ranging from this being really interesting and exciting to it raising concerns about using social media tools in practice and how it might lead to inappropriate behaviour and a blurring of the relationship between (in this case) youth workers and young people.

It was heartening to hear Andy Pyper, the lead on e-Safety within Link2ICT who advises the e-Safety Strategy in Birmingham, defend Oliver’s use of social media, as it is both transparent and so auditable.  This was followed by Tony Howell, the Director of Childrens Services, supporting the use of social media within appropriate settings, such as in Oliver’s class.

I think that for me what came out of this discussion is that we want to encourage the use of technology and to gain the most from it, whether that area is in Learning and Culture or the Youth Service. We know that there are potential issues with inappropriate uses of social media, of professional barriers being broken for instance.  But we will best support colleagues, and safeguard our children, by encouraging them to enjoy using social networking sites in a safe and supported way rather than banning their use.

This is evident in the commitment that the board makes in the first item of its e-Safety Pledge, which is

“The advantages and positive aspects of using ICT will be continually promoted amongst children and young people.”

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Digital Birmingham is a Birmingham City Council initiative and part of a city wide strategic partnership of more than 40 public, private and voluntary organisations

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