New research reveals the cyber risks faced by UK school children as young as nine

  • Seven in 10 teachers have witnessed cyber bullying at school
  • 98% of teachers said parents should be responsible for keeping children safe online but agreed that everyone has a role to play
  • 59% of teachers said that children want to know more about online safety
  • Ecclesiastical Insurance launches toolkit to help teachers deliver online safety lessons

Cyberbullying, pupils posting things they will regret later in life and addiction to gaming or technology are among the cyber risks teachers are seeing in the UK’s schools.

Research undertaken by specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed that seven in 10 (69%) teachers have witnessed cyber-bullying at their school, two-fifths (40%) have seen children posting things online that they may regret later in life and a third (34%) have seen children sharing personal information or showing signs of addiction to gaming or technology¹.

In February 2019, the Department for Education (DFE) published statutory guidance to accompany the introduction of compulsory health, relationship and sex education in 2020.  The changes will make schools responsible for teaching children about good physical and mental health, healthy relationships and how to stay safe online.

Ecclesiastical’s research suggests that teachers are concerned about the additional responsibilities they will face when it comes to online safety.

One teacher commented: “Far too much emphasis is placed on schools. This is a parenting role in the first instance. If parents allow their children access to online materials, especially through mobile phones, then they have to take the responsibility of teaching them how to use it safely.”

While 98% of teachers said that parents should be responsible for keeping their children safe online, they also agreed that the responsibility was a shared one. 84% of those surveyed agreed that ‘it takes a whole community to keep children safe on line’. This includes schools, the government and technology companies too.

According to Ecclesiastical’s research, 70% of schools are already running specific online safety lessons, but around half (45%) only teach the subject once a term. Teachers also raised concerns over the new PSHE curriculum; just 41% believe that the DFE will provide appropriate and adequate support, funding and materials to deliver the new online safety lessons.

“I don’t believe the new guidance will be helpful as it will become out of date very quickly because the internet and virtual world changes all the time,” one teacher commented, while another added: “Government wants schools to be responsible for all kinds of things but rarely provides any training or funding, they just pass the buck onto schools.”

In addition to this, a third (31%) of teachers admitted that students are engaged in the lessons at first but quickly lose interest. This is despite a recent study undertaken by The Chartered Institute of IT (BCS), which suggested that children between the ages of eight and 13 would welcome more education in schools on online safety2.

When asked why they thought students became disengaged, those surveyed suggested that children often think that they ‘know it all already’, that they don’t think it will happen to them or that the lesson content can be dull and repetitive.  

Teachers believed that the main barriers to engaging students in online safety lessons included the fact that students are often more tech savvy than the teacher (56%), it’s hard to keep up with the latest trends (50%) and that resources go out of date too quickly (35%) or are very dull (22%).

In order to address this, teachers would like to see online or interactive resources that are updated regularly and provide real life examples that the children can relate to, alongside support from external parties like the police and content that is delivered from the child’s point of view.

In response to the issues faced by teachers, Ecclesiastical has launched Cyber Ready, a new toolkit to help teachers engage children between the ages of nine and 13 in cyber safety lessons.

The Cyber Ready toolkit combines visual aids, scenarios that children can relate to and a creative approach to enable teachers to explore a range of cyber safety issues with their class. It aims to help raise awareness of cyber issues and empower children to come up with their own solutions to cyber safety. 

It features five real life scenarios for the class to work through, each addressing a cyber risk for children, including cyber bullying, spending too much time online and sharing personal information with others. It uses a range of characters, emojis, social media platforms and locations to help children bring the scenarios to life.

The Cyber Ready toolkit is available to download for free from the Ecclesiastical website: