Digital Wellness Week w/c 2nd March

Productive and healthy use of our digital devices

Back in September we had a Digital Detox Week to help raise pupils’ (and parents’) awareness about just how much they use and depend upon their phones.  Next week as part of Lent (w/c 2/3/20), rather than encouraging abstinence from digital devices we are having a Digital Wellness Week to promote healthy living alongside our digital devices.

Our digital devices are an integral part of our lives today.  Understanding how to manage them in a healthy way is key to a productive and successful future for our children.

same world no longer exists


Technology and our daily lives

Recently published medical research indicates that childhood brain development is affected by too much screen time.  The research which is based upon yearly brain scans over three years of children of various ages, indicates that no issues were detected with children using their devices for 2 hours or less per day.  Scans of the students with more than two hours screen time (on top of online school related work) indicated brain development issues in proportion to the amount of time spent on their devices above and beyond the 2 hour mark.

There’s nothing particularly surprising there, but it is good to finally have some hard evidence and some numbers to work with.  The research findings did not distinguish between different types of usage such as social media, online gaming or watching video content.

Find Balance as Family

At some point during our “Digital Wellness Week” could I encourage you to think about your child’s use of technology and their screen time and discuss this with them?  They will be expecting it as I will be talking about it in assembly.

Here are some suggestions and links to help get you started.

reflect on your habits

Action points for parents – What to do

  • develop a plan with your child for screen time and try to stick to it (use a usage monitor to help)
  • ensure children have a balance of activities in the day, with physical activity, face-to-face conversation and tech-free times
  • encourage mealtimes to be tech free
  • try to ensure there are no screens in the bedroom at night
  • talk to your children about their tech usage, staying safe online and what sort of things they are accessing and communicating

Have the tech talk

Start a conversation with your kids on how to be smart, safe, and kind on the Internet

internet awesome

Useful links




Happy Safer Internet Day (and happy Valentine’s Day too)

Another eventful week in the world of eSafety; Ofcom are going to get some extra powers to help hold social media giants to account over inappropriate material. Today, Friday 14th Feb, is not just Valentine’s Day, it’s also Safer Internet Day.  The one day each year when we ought to review our successes and failures, the benefits and our worries, about our online lives.  This year Safer Internet Day (SID) is about considering our online identities.


The UK Safer Internet Centre have created some really useful resources for parents that can be found at  I particularly like the Family Internet Safety Plan as a way of starting and focusing a family conversation around some key issues.

I’ve also added a page of useful links to the eSafety Blog   It’s a little more focused and relevant than the one from the Safer Internet Centre.


Try the NetAware or Common Sense Media links!

ICO: Age Appropriate Design Code


Whilst today’s children are growing up in a digitally connected world, a world where phones, tablets and computers have been an integral part of their lives from birth, the reality is that we are still at the wild frontier of the digital age. New frontiers always present a challenge because we don’t instantly know how the complex dynamics of human interaction, needs, desires and aspirations will translate given the new dynamic.  As such laws tend to emerge from immoral deeds then socially unacceptable behaviours enacted by individuals or groups for their own gain or gratification.  For the digital world, these laws started to be created in the late 80s / early 90s and have gradually been refined and supplemented to help alleviate exploitation and protect the innocent.

Last month the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham announced a new code of practice to specifically help protect and reduce the exploitation of children accessing online services.  The Information Commissioner says, online platforms must be designed in a way that makes them safe for children and if they are not, children must be barred.


Rules will bar Facebook, Google and other tech giants from serving children content that is detrimental to their physical or mental health or well-being.  The code requires companies to safeguard children’s privacy, to curb addictive features and to restrict the use of personal information for commercial ends.  The code of practice should become law in the summer, after which companies will have a year’s grace to prepare to comply with it.

Mrs Denham said: “There are laws to protect children in the real world – films ratings, car seats, age restrictions on drinking and smoking.  We need our laws to protect children in the digital world too!  This is a first step towards online digital services taking responsibility for the users’ experience.”


AGE APPROPRIATE DESIGN CODE – main points in practice

  • New default settings for children – ‘HIGH PRIVACY’
    Apps with tools and features such as profiling, geolocation, continuous scrolling, auto play and reward loops, must have these settings turned off by default.
  • Addictive reward manipulation designed to keep children online for hours is also tackled with requirements for pause buttons and pop up warnings.
  • Profiling where algorithms use a child’s online history to target them with content they might like should be turned off unless a compelling reason for it not to be can be specified.

The code is designed to protect children from the tech sector’s insatiable appetite for data.  App developers must act in the child’s best interest, not their own commercial interest. Society is starting to realise the safety and well-being of our children must be given precedence over mechanisms to make profit from data gathering.

“The code is the first in the world to prevent children’s data being exploited in ways that undermine safety.”

The full consultation paper can be found at

This infographic from the UK Safer Internet Centre is a little easier to access

Medical Advice to Parents

Lots of scientific research into the use and effects of digital devices and the digital world has been ongoing over the last few years and the results and key findings are now being published.  The results are not necessarily unexpected or surprising, but the levels of the effects are eye-opening.  I will talk about the research, findings, and implications in forthcoming posts, but for the moment I am going to draw your attention to some responsive summary advice from British medical institutions, namely the NHS,  the RCPCH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health) and this below from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Guidance for Parents

For children under the age of one:

  • avoid screen time

For two- to five-year-olds:

  • ensure any screen time is part of a varied and balanced day, including physical activity and face-to-face conversation
  • spend at least three hours a day on physical activity
  • children should spend no more than one hour sitting watching or playing with screens

For five- to 11-year-olds:

  • develop a plan with your child for screen time and try to stick to it
  • ensure children have a balance of activities in the day, with physical activity, face-to-face conversation and tech-free times
  • encourage mealtimes to be tech free
  • ensure you have spoken to your children about how to keep safe online, check they are keeping safe and make it clear you will support them if they feel unsafe or upset online
  • try to ensure there are no screens in the bedroom at night

For 11- to 16-year- olds:

  • develop a plan or check your existing one is still appropriate
  • encourage a balance of physical activity, face-to-face social time, schoolwork and family time
  • encourage mealtimes to be tech free
  • keep having conversations about keeping safe online and offer space to talk about upsetting things teenagers might see online
  • make it clear you will support them if they feel unsafe or upset online
  • try to ensure there are no screens in the bedroom at night


Happy New Year! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make these eSafety blogs more digestible / accessible.  i.e. Short and to the point.

It does mean that I will need to post slightly more frequently but that is the trade-off.


One of the biggest tech trends for kids in 2019 was the rise of TikTok, a social media app that Common Sense Media have described as “what you’d get if you put YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram in a blender—and just kept it running ’til your brain exploded.” This year millions of kids flooded onto the app, and parents were at a loss, wondering what their kids were doing (or being exposed to) on this new platform.


TikTok is a video-sharing social media app available on iOS and Android which lets users create, share, and view user created videos. It’s main draw, however, is that users can record and upload bite-sized looping videos of themselves lip-syncing and dancing to popular music or soundbites, often for comedic effect.  These videos can then be further enhanced with filters, emojis and stickers. TikTok (previously has been designed with the young user in mind and has a very addictive appeal. At the beginning of 2019 it was the iOS store’s most downloaded app.

Some useful advice can be found here from National Online Safety, but our advice remains the same as for all social media apps; please discuss your child’s usage of the app with them and check their posts and activities by reviewing their phones frequently.


Progress at STM, Fake News/Misinformation, Tech Taking Over and 5 Steps for Staying Safe Online

Progress at STM

I’m delighted to feedback to you that there have been fewer eSafety ‘incidents’ at school this half term.  Digital Detox Week allowed me to emphasise a few reminders about phone use and school rules.  i.e. phones are turned off before being brought onto the school premises, storing phones safely (perhaps even not bringing them to school) and taking care about posting photos of one another, especially if in school uniform and indeed always seeking each other’s permission before sharing photos

Year 8 have finished a unit of work around phone technology and safety issues relating to phone use.  They have also been learning how to create online collaborative presentations, which facilitated a whole new discussion about online etiquette for effective collaboration.  Some groups chose to present various eSafety topics which enabled me to witness just how comprehensive their eSafety knowledge is.

Fake News / Misinformation

Last week’s general election highlighted the amount fake news and misinformation on social networks that we were subjected to.  Over 20000 different political ads were posted on social media platforms, many of which were highly targeted ads – using social networks’ digital profiling tools to home-in on specific voters.  Certain ads are being chosen for us based upon age, location, interests and gender.

“As social networks have grown, they’ve also amplified the voices of bad actors across the globe. Fake news has influenced global events, and algorithms care only about ‘engagement’, and keeping people addicted to platforms without substance.” From

Unlike commercial advertising, accuracy and fact checking for political adverts aren’t currently legal requirements in the UK.  In Singapore a new law has been introduced requiring political advertising transparency about the amounts paid and the number of placements and views of an ad.

Educating our children about the poor reliability and indeed deliberately inaccurate information that they are likely to encounter on the web can be brought to life by talking through our own difficulties and experiences online.


Quarter of young people ‘seriously dependant’ on their smartphone

A new study has been looking into young people’s relationships with their smartphones.

The researchers, from King’s College London, found that almost a quarter (23%) were seriously dependant on their phone, and if they couldn’t use it they became ‘panicky’ or ‘upset’.  The study also discovered that the young people found it very hard to control how much time they spent on their phones.

The researchers say this kind of behaviour is similar to that of addiction.  They worry this ‘addiction’ could have “serious consequences” to young people’s mental health, such as stress, a depressed mood, lack of sleep and not trying in school.

BBC Newsround did a special entitled ‘Is Tech Taking Over?’, looking at how much kids use technology, what they use it for and how they cope without it.

Is Tech Taking Over? A Newsround Special


I will be showing it to pupils in Years 6 & 7 the week after Christmas and asking them to discuss the advice on this BBC webpage.


5 Steps for Staying Safe Online this Christmas

  • Be Careful What you Share Online
  • Think Before you Post
  • Never share or reveal your passwords
  • Be careful who you chat to
  • Protect your identity – be careful not to reveal too much about yourself



Christmas presents to help improve typing skills.

Whilst teaching the new Year 5 pupils this year, the lack of familiarity with using a mouse and poor keyboard skills really stood out.  For the first time we are seeing significant numbers of pupils who are unable to type at a minimum speed of 10 words per minute.  To be clear, like a child who cannot read, this is really going to affect their ability to use a computer and complete computer-based assignments.

It turns out that the poor keyboard skills are due to increased use of tablets. Pupils are using one hand only to type and even when introduced to a real keyboard with keys, still use their index fingers on the space bar.  Typing skills are clearly diminishing.  Yes, we have speech recognition, but that has been around for over 20 years now, and we still spend good portions of our lives tapping away on a keyboard!  When I surveyed the Year 5 pupils, many of them indicated that they no longer had a computer with a physical keyboard in the house.

At school,  pupils use their school Google accounts to login to a typing tutorial site called  As well as providing some time and support in lessons, I encourage them to continue to use ‘Typing Club’ for homework, with the emphasis on regular small amounts of practice.  i.e. 10 mins per day for 5 days a week. The lessons are set up with a visual keyboard on-screen so users don’t need to look down at their fingers.  The on-screen visuals also indicate which fingers should be used.  On screen visuals are gradually reduced as the user progresses through the levels and completes the course.


If you don’t have a physical keyboard at home and you are looking for an educational present for you child, perhaps you might like to consider getting Bluetooth keyboard to use with a tablet or similar and give them plenty of encouragement to get on and use Typing Club?  Decent keyboards seem to start from about £15.

Have a great Christmas.

Adapted from sources including:



Anti-Bullying Week. Look at the statistics – bullying is a learnt behaviour.

This e-Safety bulletin looks at cyber-bullying and… this might sound strange, supporting children who bully others.

If you are new to St Michael’s, I would like to introduce you to the Dorset Police Safe Schools & Communities Team (SSCT) who came into school on Thursday to talk to the school about bullying.  SSCT define bullying as the repeated and intentional hurting of one person to another. Bullying has four main forms: physical, verbal, emotional and online.

Did you know that nearly 1 in 3 teenagers in Britain experience online bullying at some point?  To help pupils understand what is and is not bullying, the SSCT exemplified what sort of things are not acceptable online and discussed what the potential consequences of such performing such actions could be.

In case you aren’t aware, the SSCT produce a quarterly online safety newsletter for parents which covers lots of useful up-to-date, pertinent information relating to young people. This is a ‘for parents’ newsletter, so I wouldn’t recommend it for direct dissemination to children as it doesn’t pull any punches in highlighting what some of the worst outcomes have been as a result of children’s use of technology.  In this post, I summarise a couple of the key messages from the latest SSCT newsletter and put them into context against the latest statistics about online bullying.

Bullying and Bullies

Until recently most guidance has been focused on what to do to support a child who is the victim of bullying. However, more recent research indicates the importance of instigating support for a child who has been bullying others. 

The traditional view of bullying as a learnt behaviour

Young people can learn to behave in a discriminatory way towards others who are different to them, for example those with a disability, different colour skin, gender, religion or nationality. If family or friends express discriminatory views, a young person can either believe this is the appropriate way to behave or may feel obliged to behave in this way to fit in.

In the online world, it can be that a young person simply does not understand the impact that their behaviour is having on another person. In face to face interactions, we rely heavily on voice tone, facial expressions and body language to understand communication; online, much of this can be missing.


cyber bullying

Much online bullying happens alongside other forms of bullying such as face to face assaults or verbal abuse.  However, where bullying happens online, there are some additional issues. Firstly, online bullying can happen 24/7, so giving young people a break from their devices, especially overnight can help both victims and those bullying to break the cycle. Secondly, the online space can make bullying easier because sharing or posting something unpleasant can happen extremely quickly with just one tap or click, and you are buffered from the emotional response of the victim; in addition, the internet can mask the identity of the perpetrator of the behaviour. Lastly, the reach of the internet can mean that as well as comments being shared quickly, they can be shared far more widely than was possible in the past.

England’s schools ‘worst for cyber-bullying’

An international study says, headteachers in England are more likely to face problems with pupils bullying online and misusing social media than in any other developed country.  The report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) reported the experiences of more than 250,000 teachers in 48 industrialised countries and regions.

It showed particular problems with cyber-bullying in England’s schools.  The survey indicated an increase in bullying, driven by online bullying and harassment and problems caused by social media.

Of the heads in England surveyed:

·         14% of schools faced problems each week caused by “hurtful” material posted about pupils, compared with an international average of 2%, with the United States having the next highest proportion – 10%

·         27% of schools faced problems each week caused by pupils receiving “unwanted contact” online – in the form of cyber-bullying, compared with an international average of 3%, with Australia having the next highest proportion – 16%

When you see these sorts of statistics, you have to wonder if our culture is feeding an attitude that leads to bullying?

The view of the bully as the victim

Bullying behaviour can be a coping strategy for a stressful or traumatic situation, including being bullied by someone else, family splits or bereavement. Some people will seek to humiliate someone else to feel powerful because they lack that feeling of power and control over elements of their own lives. Those that have been bullied are twice as likely to bully others, and if the underlying issues are not resolved, a negative pattern of behaviour can follow.

The latest research indicates massively high proportions of  bullies being the victim of previous bullying incidents.

Anti-bullying week at St Mike’s

At St Michael’s we try to exemplify a culture of respect towards the diversity of people around us and to explore, understand and value that diversity rather than propagating any biases or ill feelings towards any groups of people.

Our key messages from anti-bullying week has been to help pupils understand their own and others’ roles if they witness bullying of any sort, to understand how they can help deter bullying and the importance of reporting it to an adult.


You can access the SSCT newsletters and sign up to them here.

The Information and text above has been adapted from the latest SSCT newsletter along with some statistics from the BBC.

Sources: and