Thursday, 6 May 2010

Facebook concerns in Primary Schools

We are aware that recently primary schools have become increasingly concerned with the use of the Facebook social networking site amongst their students. Every anonymous survey conducted by staff within our primary schools consistently shows that students (mostly KS2 although not always) are setting up Facebook profiles to keep in touch with their friends. If your school has become concerned about this then this article suggests the steps you could take.

Remove the usernames if necessary

Very simply Facebook does not allow under 13’s. The difficulty is in removing their online profiles once they have been made.

Facebook has a “Report and Underage User” form . However you have to know the profile address of the child you are concerned about. These profiles are of the format and whilst a search within Facebook may give you a profile address for a given name (e.g. John Smith) their directory listing may not be enough to ensure you have the right profile (e.g. children often use a fake photo when making the profile to appear older).

Since you must be logged into Facebook to either search for profiles or to remove profiles this is a time-consuming course of action unless you have a specific reason to do this for a particular child or group of children. It is however a more realistic thing to ask parents or children to do following the appropriate eSafety lesson or presentation. It is always easier for a child to remove their own profile with their parents help than it is for a parent/teacher to put a formal request through Facebook.

Review your eSafety strategy

A good eSafety strategy involves a 3-pronged attack: Policies, Infrastructure and Education.

1. Ensure you have appropriate POLICIES to encourage correct behaviours and actions. Policies should encourage the correct preventative behaviours and also appropriate responsive behaviours should an issue arise. The key policy to have in place is a good “Acceptable Use Policy” explaining what staff and students can use school technologies for. Ideally this should be signed by staff and students’ parents so that the expectation is very clear. Other related policies that should reference eSafety appropriately include a school’s “Anti-bullying policy”together with the general “Safeguarding policy”. For further advice on drawing up these policies:

2. Review your technical INFRASTRUCTURE to ensure your systems enable students and staff to access and use web sites that you are comfortable with. A website filtering system can be reinforced by using monitoring software that will ensure that worrying actions can be picked up. Whilst monitoring systems can appear to be a bit ‘big brother’, often the installation of such systems can generate significant eSafety discussions within the school and then the software acts as a deterrent from thereon. All Redbridge schools automatically have access to LGFL web filtering to remove inappropriate content coming in, and LGFL has recommended Policy Central monitoring systems which schools can purchase ( to ensure that systems are being used appropriately.

3. Have a strong EDUCATION programme. Whilst the first two points focus on ensuring that children and staff are safe within the school, the majority of internet usage by young people happens outside the school, and increasingly using mobile devices. Ofsted have reported that “where provision for e-safety was outstanding, all the staff, including members of the wider workforce, shared responsibility for it. Assemblies, tutorial time, personal, social, health and education lessons, and an age-appropriate curriculum for e-safety all helped pupils to become safe and responsible users of new technologies”. A good eSafety strategy is far more about strong education than it is about the previous two points. For more details on the Ofsted eSafety report please see:

Advise the parents

If Facebook (or equivalent systems) are becoming an issue in your school you may choose to write directly to the parents. In this situation consider saying the following:
  1. New technologies and the internet are tremendously useful tools to support children’s learning. There is a wide range of good quality websites designed to support learning such as your Fronter learning platform, and BBC Learning. We emphatically promote good use of technology at school and at home.
  2. Whilst children want to communicate with their friends outside school Facebook is an inappropriate place for young people to socialise. Facebook’s terms and conditions states in their “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” that “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.” (Section 4:5). It is your responsibility as parents to ensure your children do not use it.
  3. There are age appropriate websites that young people may more safely use for social networking (e.g. and . As a school we recognise that whilst the Internet is a great tool, it is not the only place to socialise and learn new things. As a parent it is your responsibility to ensure your child has an appropriate balance between screen and non-screen time.
  4. The next eSafety event to be held at the school will be on XYZ date. We will look at some of the technologies available to our children today and how we as parents can ensure our children have a good experience of technology without encountering the dangers.
  5. We recommend that you discuss your child’s use of the internet regularly and if there are issues raised that you need further guidance on look at the childnet website ( or come in and talk to Miss ABC, who is the senior member of staff overseeing our own eSafety strategy.

As a school you may also need to refer to the incident that raised your concerns initially but the above 5 points are nearly always relevant to communicate to parents. (It is also possible to order the Childnet material on a CD free of charge for distribution to parents. To order ring 0845 60 222 60 quoting reference 00308-2007CD0-EN. )

If you work within a Redbridge school and you have a more specific eSafety discussion you would like to have with a member of the School Improvement Team please do get in touch.

Alex Rees

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