Online safety to feature in Life Orientation curriculum as learners move online

The lockdown period has brought South Africa face to face with the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While internet access is by no means universal or available to all, during this time many more children have been engaging in the online space than ever before.

As our lives, and our learning, are increasingly connecting with the digital space, many parents are rightfully concerned about the safety of their children when accessing the internet. They are at risk from predators, bullying, fraud and negative social influences – and are often more advanced in their online skills than their parents are.

With this in mind, the WCED has partnered with Google to develop an Online Safety curriculum for the Life Orientation subject at schools. This curriculum seeks to teach learners the fundamentals of digital safety so that they can explore the online world safely. This curriculum was piloted in 2019 so that areas for development could be identified.

The lessons are structured in a manner that builds on the work of a previous grade, with four lessons in each grade:

Grade 8: Be Safe Online – creating secure accounts, understanding the difference between personal and non-personal information, guidelines for online communication and cyberbullying

Grade 9: Be a Respectful Digital Citizen – social media and its responsible use, the dangers of selfies and sexting, and identifying websites with fake information

Grade 10: Be Smart online – network and internet basics, preventing online fraud/scams, and the impact of social media on our lives and communities (both positive and negative)

Grade 11: Be a Responsible Digital Citizen – rights and responsibilities under law, protecting your personal information, not engaging in harassment on social media, and the effect of social media on politics

Grade 12: Be Future Ready – e-commerce applications and services, safety in e-commerce transactions, and using online job searches and course for growth

The pilot identified a number of successes and challenges, and was used to revise the curriculum before rolling out the lessons as part of the Life Orientation curriculum.

We had already implemented the lessons in 5 of our 8 education districts before the extended school closure, and this will be expanded when schools reopen. The lockdown has made the delivery of the Online Safety Curriculum even more important as children spending much of their timeline in the internet and social media – both for learning and for entertainment. We are currently working on a set of specific lessons that we can make available to learners and parents while everyone is still at home.

They can also visit our cyber wellness page on the WCED website, which has workbooks, documents and advice on topics such as safe cell phone use, and tools to prevent cyber bullying: https://wcedonline.westerncape.gov.za/elearning/elearning-cyber-wellness

We encourage all parents to engage with their children’s online activities as they explore the world of digital communication and learning. Having frank conversations about the challenges they may face online will make all the difference when they are called upon to make decisions that affect both themselves and others.