Paedophiles: WMD

I get asked a lot: What is the greatest challenge facing schools? I get asked this because I lobby a bit to bring programming into schools, and that in itself invites great discussion

I want to say the following, but I never do as the publications I get asked to quote for would never publish this but my answer is…

Paedophiles

Parents are terrified of them

Kids don’t know who they are

Teachers live in fear of being accused (fairly or unfairly) of being one

Nothing I or anyone else can do or say will ever beat the Stranger Danger fear, a successful campaign of the 20th Century that echoes through the decades of the 21st Century.

In a world of fear no Spring can overcome, analogue schools will fail in a digital world.

The school solution to the digital renaissance is to close, protect and hide pupils and educators from the digital unknown. Stranger danger fear from the 70s and 80s affect the approach to the Internet being imposed on children and parents. Those very parents who more often than not have little knowledge of what digital skills are being taught in schools vs the savviness required to avoid dangerous situations in real or digital worlds.

There are so many levels to this, but there are two obvious splits right now:

  • how do you protect your child in a digital world? Answer: the same as you do offline, inform them of danger, give them the equivalent of the Green Cross Code for online – most kids will spot a fake profile or paedophile before any adult could, definitely – but it takes guts and a horrible step that has to be taken too early, to ruin the blush of innocence that before your 7 year old daughter can play Stardoll, for example, you must mention paedophiles
  • How do you allow your child the freedom to learn online? Perhaps the only place they can pick up some of the digital skills necessary for them to practice basic or advanced programming (should they so desire) and at the same time protect them from paedophiles? (Who now come in all forms: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-girl-who-became-three-boys)

That’s the real challenge.

This blog post is intentionally ill-thought-through. I do not have the answers, but I would like you to ask yourselves the questions and think about this.

I run Young Rewired State and we have to, rightly so, run ourselves in circles to ensure that no-one gets near these kids without our knowledge of who they are and their provenance. As we grow we need to address this at scale – a problem we will certainly be facing in 2013.

We are a single and relatively small organisation, currently the size of a very small private school. What happens at scale? Something has to because analogue schools in a digital world don’t work, and running scared is bullshit.

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