Pupils at a North Wales high school have become the latest to join a Flintshire firm’s pioneering scheme to keep youngsters safe online.
The eCadets programme gets children and teenagers working together to advise friends and family on how to protect themselves in the virtual world.
The award-winning scheme was the brainchild of former police officer Henry Platten and his wife Danielle. They already run successful Flintshire-based company eTreble9, which advises companies and individuals about online security.
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan is the first secondary school in Conwy County Borough to sign up to the eCadets scheme.
The eCadets also take the safety messages home by making parents and other family members aware of the increasing need for online safety, whether ensuring passwords are secure or discussing the pitfalls of making friends on the internet.
Henry said: “We know children often find it difficult to talk openly to parents or teachers about issues like digital safety or cyber bullying, but they are much more comfortable turning to their friends and peers for advice.
“We are there in the background to provide support and advice, providing a safety net should something come to light that needs adult intervention.
“As well as keeping youngsters safe, the eCadet scheme has been designed to help schools meet targets in relation to online safety, health and well-being, literacy and numeracy and personal development.”
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan assistant head teacher Steffan Woodhead says the school wanted to ensure all pupils use the internet safely, whether at home or in school.
He said: “We have 24 pupils signed up as eCadets, which is a wonderful response. I see the scheme as an intermediary step between staff and learners, which encourages dialogue.
“Like every school we occasionally hear about isolated incidents of cyber bullying, so we decided to take positive steps to prevent it, while increasing general internet safety among our learners.”
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan eCadet Charlotte Booth, 13, of Kinmel Bay said: “It’s a good scheme and a great way of helping other students by giving advice on things like cyber bullying and the information people give out in their profile on social media sites.
“It’s important to keep safe. Being an eCadet is also helping me when it comes to learning more about computers. I’m considering looking for a job in IT when I leave school.”
Eleisha Rollinson-Davies, 13, of Kinmel Bay said: “I have a friend who suffered cyber bullying at her previous school, before she moved to Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan to get away from it.
“I think it’s really important to learn how to keep safe and prevent things like bullying and pass that information on.
“I‘m always really careful about what I put on line about myself but I know a few others aren’t so careful so if we can help them that has to be good.”
Dylan Cunnah, 13, also of Kinmel Bay, said: “It’s about passing on information and keeping everyone safe on line. I think it’s a great idea and I’m glad to be signed up as an eCadet.
“If I can help people from putting too much information about themselves on line that what I want to do.”
Rose Williams, 13, and also of Kinmel Bay said: “We have spent a whole term looking at internet safety and this carries that on. I think it’s so important young people in particular think carefully about what they put on line and on social media sites.”
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan’s head of IT Karen Khan said: “Pupils study e-safety as part of the national curriculum during Key Stage 3 – that includes devices such as mobile phones, social networking and on-line gaming.
“The eCadet scheme is a brilliant idea. It’s good to get children involved and helping each other. Very often youngsters spot trends far faster that teachers do. And during classroom discussions it’s clear learners are more aware of new applications and technologies – they almost teach me!
“But we have to keep children safe. I do believe they will listen to their peers far more readily than they will teachers or parents.”
She added: “I also think it’s important we encourage learners to use the internet and the technology that’s available has so many positive uses. But they need to understand what they put on social media sites stays out there.
“And they have to know how to keep themselves safe. I think they can do that by learning from and through each other.”
The eCadet initiative links to the computing curriculum, meets the needs of inspections by schools watchdog Estyn, and is closely related to PHSE and well-being requirements.
Henry quit his job with Cheshire Police to launch eTreble9, which helps businesses and individuals protect their assets online – and eCadets was a spin-off, as the couple realised that youngsters also needed to be kept just as safe.
Henry added: “Our approach is very much not to frighten children about the internet, not to scare them, just to show them how to use it safely to give them that confidence, to give them those skills to be digital citizens, and really to live their lives safely online so that they get the most from it.
“We think this scheme, which has won several awards including the prestigious Nominet Award for ‘Making the Internet a Safer Place’ and is shortlisted for the Internet Service Provider Association eSafety Award on 2 July, is vital because so many children now use the internet and social media sites and they must be able to do it as safely as possible.
“Through the scheme, which is for children aged 3 to 18, they learn new skills about staying safe and get to help their friends and parents as well. For pupils at Emrys ap Iwan they’ll learn about digital employability, anti-bullying and online safety. Learners are able to safely connect with pupils of the same age at other schools to discuss issues or highlight any unsafe trends.”
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, which dates back to 1899, has more than 1,100 learners with 140 teaching and support staff.