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15 October 2021

Helping children be safer, smarter, happier internet explorers

Year six teacher Caroline Lock talks about the positive impact Google’s Be Internet Legends online safety programme has had on her students.

Teaching young people about the online world is no easy feat. Children naturally see themselves as digital experts – so as a parent or teacher, finding the balance between independent exploration and online safety can be challenging.

In partnership with Parent Zone, Google set up Be Internet Legends – an educational programme that has been embedded in UK primary school curriculums since 2018. It provides teachers with materials to educate children aged seven to 11 on digital safety skills, from spotting false information and scams to being kind to one another. It is estimated to have helped teachers train more than four million students and reached nearly three-quarters of UK primary schools. It also has resources for parents, so you can continue embedding these principles at home.

Caroline Lock is a year six school teacher at Valley Road Primary School in Oxfordshire. She has two teenage children of her own and uses Be Internet Legends in her classroom. Here she talks about the positive impact the programme has made on her students.

Why is it important that children learn online safety skills as part of the school curriculum?

Our children are living in a digitally connected world. As teachers, our role is to help them develop the skills they need to navigate and communicate online and offline. We want young people to make the most of the benefits the internet can bring to their lives – socially and emotionally, as well as educationally. Knowing how to analyse online content, understanding how to communicate positively, and being able to spot potential risks are vital skills that children today need.

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How effective is the Be Internet Legends programme and what are its best aspects?

For me, as a teacher and parent, what sets the programme apart is its positivity –  its key aim is to help children be smarter, safer and happier explorers of the digital world. The resources aim to empower, not restrict. A simple yet effective internet code – Be Sharp, Alert, Secure, Kind and Brave – underpins the programme with messages that are as important online as they are offline. 

My class particularly enjoyed using the Be Internet Legends Interland game and Build Your Legend quiz. The interactive elements encouraged valuable discussion in the classroom, and the students loved building their own Internaut trophy. They were able to make the trophy by correctly answering all of the quiz questions to unlock the instructions. We still have one proudly on display! 

What impact has Be Internet Legends had on your students?

It has given us a shared language to use with both children and their parents about how we can all make the most of the internet. The children learn to see links between the decisions they make in the real world and the online world. Staff have become more confident in discussing issues such as phishing, hacking and over-sharing with their students. And the fact that the programme is driven by Google has certainly added kudos to our lessons, which means the children have been more engaged and responsive to our teaching.

Children often see themselves as digital experts, which can be challenging for teachers and parents. How do you navigate this?

One of the wonderful aspects of working with children is that I learn new things from them every day – especially when it comes to the latest fads, dance trends and apps! But it sometimes feels like technology is advancing quicker than we can keep up with. This leads to concerns that we are not teaching children the correct skills because we are not confident in how to use certain apps ourselves. 

However, while children may be “experts” in producing digital content, they still need the support of teachers and parents to help them understand how to use their skills safely. The key is helping parents understand this and reassuring them that they do not need to be digital experts themselves to help their child stay safer online.

What resources can parents use at home to help them feel in control of their family’s digital lives?

As part of the Be Internet Legends programme, Google and Parent Zone have created a variety of resources aimed specifically at parents. A dedicated Parent’s Page has all manner of support including a highly engaging animated series – The Legends Family Adventure – to watch alongside your child. You will also find “family guides”, which provides guidance for parents on how to discuss, learn and think about online safety together with their children. If your child’s school is using Be Internet Legends, ask your child to share their learnings with you – play the Interland game together and show them how their learning in the classroom relates to their learning at home.

Find out more about Be Internet Legends.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/ Monkey Business Images.

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