Minister Bruton launches new Internet Safety Resource for Schools

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D. today launched a new internet safety resource for teenagers to mark Safer Internet Day 2018. The new ‘Be in Ctrl’ resource has been developed in partnership with An Garda Síochana to support teachers to address the topic of online sexual coercion and extortion - often referred to as ‘webcam blackmail’.

The Department recognises the concern expressed by parents and teachers on the use of new technologies by children and today’s announcement is part of a package of supports that the Department offers to schools in this area.  All schools are advised to have an Acceptable Usage Policy in place, which governs students’ use of the internet at school. Under the ‘Broadband for Schools Programme’ schools are provided with a portfolio of network services including security and filtering of content. Schools are expected to develop policies on smart phone use in consultation with the wider school community, including parents.

‘Be in Ctrl’ contains three lesson plans, an information pack for school leaders, and will be supported by a Garda Schools’ Talk. The resource will be available for all schools to order, or access online, for free from Today, the 6th February, Safer Internet Day 2018.  The resources are intended for use as part of the Junior Cycle SPHE curriculum and will help students understand that online sexual coercion and extortion of children is a crime; raise awareness of safe online communication; and know when to seek help and report incidents.

Launching the resource, Richard Bruton, Minister for Education and Skills said “We want to ensure our children are kept safe online. Today’s announcement is part of a suite of supports we offer schools in playing their part to ensure that our children are protected online. I’m delighted to launch this resource, which was developed in partnership with An Garda Síochana and I encourage all schools to engage in this very important area.”

Ciara O’Donnell, National Director, PDST, explains, “National and international research has consistently shown that the qualified classroom teacher has the capacity to positively impact students’ attitudes, values and behaviors. They are therefore well placed to work sensitively and consistently with students. This resource should greatly assist teachers in their engagement with students on issues associated with online sexual coercion and extortion.”

Assistant Commissioner John O Driscoll of Special Crime Operations said, “The Garda Síochána is pleased to partner with Webwise in the development and launch of this important initiative.  Awareness raising of the nature intended, is undoubtedly an extremely important aspect of combating online child exploitation.  The benefits that can arise from implementing preventative measures regarding the issue involved, cannot be overstated.  Posting or uploading explicit images or videos on social media, or passing such imagery to others online, is extremely dangerous and has potential to cause devastating and lifelong consequences for children and their families. 

“Both parents and children should be aware of the dangers involved and the Garda Síochána advise that explicit images should never be posted or shared online.  Any child who receives a request to share explicit photographs should not do so. If a child receives a request of this nature, we urge them to tell a parent and immediately make contact with the Garda Síochána who will provide advice regarding how the matter can best be handled.”

Bolstering this year’s campaign, Webwise, funded by the Department of Education and Skills have trained 80 teenagers from across the country as ‘Safer Internet Day’ Ambassadors. These are students who want to do something positive with their peers to raise awareness on the benefits and risks of the online environment. Their Webwise Training has given them the knowledge and skills to lead Safer Internet Day initiatives and campaigns in their schools and clubs.

Jane Hayes Nally, 18, Safer Internet Day 2018 Ambassador, “This event acted as a space for students to think and learn, with the skills and knowledge they’ve developed they have designed and planned projects on topical issues such as image-sharing, online wellbeing, and privacy within their own schools for Safer Internet Day, which will reach thousands of Irish students this February 6th.”

Zak Aboukrhes, Safer Internet Day 2018 Ambassador, “This is a dynamic, inclusive group whose purpose is to ensure a safer internet experience for all. This is achieved through our SID ambassador, peer-led training programme, of which, I am proud to be a facilitator. Those that take part in this training will ensure they will stay safe online as well as passing on this information to their friends.”

Safer Internet Day is fast becoming a permanent annual feature in the school calendar. Over 70,000 students took part last year and Minister Bruton is calling on all schools to get involved in Safer Internet Day on the 6th of February, 2018.

To kick off this year’s participation, Webwise has launched an exciting competition for schools. The grand prize is an exclusive performance by X Factor’s Sean & Conor Price, to take place in the winner’s school. Entrants have until February 28th to share a photo of their Safer Internet Day activities using the hashtag #BeInCtrl on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to be in with a chance to win. Students and teachers will find a range of ideas on on how to get involved.