In September 2014, NAPD president Clive Byrne began calling for dedicated modules to be included in the curriculum to educate teens about cyber bullying and cyber safety.
In May 2014, the report of the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group recommended establishing an inter-agency working group to identify “appropriate mechanisms to ensure that internet safety and digital literacy skills are taught as a core element of the curriculum at both primary and post-primary levels”.
“We held a workshop on this issue at our last convention. It’s clear that people are still lax with their security,” said Mr Byrne, who believes a formalised module on internet safety should be incorporated into the Social, Personal, and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum.
“We feel that responsible internet use is a vital issue and that school is the best place to deliver that knowledge. The SPHE course should be able to deliver a module on internet safety and we would welcome the involvement of the Department of Education on this.”
Though the department has issued guidelines, it falls on each school to implement internet safety-awareness training. Irish Second-Level Students’ Union deputy president Joanna Siewierska said the department needs to ensure there is a formal focus on digital well-being in the curriculum.
“Schools have a vital role to play, and digital media, digital literacy, and digital safety need to be taught at second level,” she said.
She warned it is important to remember who is to blame in cases where teenagers’ images are used without their knowledge or consent.
“This isn’t about victim-blaming; the blame is with the person who chooses to upload the images and use them in this disgusting way, but young people need to know that when you put an image on Facebook, it can be taken and used by any website at all and that includes a porn website; you have no control at all once it’s out there and there are people who can abuse that,” said Ms Siewierska.
“Awareness-raising initiatives like ‘Watch Your Space’ help, but there still doesn’t appear to be a specific enough digital focus.”
‘Watch Your Space’ is an initiative of Webwise, the Department of Education-funded internet safety awareness centre. Webwise director Simon Grehan said there are difficulties in providing a standardised curriculum for such rapidly-evolving technologies.
“Everyone would agree that schools should teach more internet safety,” he said. “The problem is that a curriculum takes a long time to update; the technologies and how kids are using them are moving very quickly.”