Israeli students get schooled in Internet safety

Education Ministry aims to ‘adapt’ to cyberspace threats

Cyber hackers [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cyber hackers [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Pupils across the country marked “Internet Safe Browsing Week” in an effort to raise awareness of Internet safety and cyber-bullying.
The joint initiative of the Education Ministry, the parents’ association, the national student association, government ministries and the business and nonprofit sectors aims to convey the message: “Making a change in society – lend a helping hand online.”
From February 5 through 9, students are taking part in discussions, workshops, lectures and special projects to raise awareness of the issue.
“Social networks present a new educational challenge for parents and the education system alike,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said of the week’s program.
“The education system must adapt itself to the world of youth and children in the age of [social] networks,” he said.
Bennett said that the ministry is currently working on adapting the system to cope with the educational challenge, which he said includes: “protection and awareness of the immense dangers in cyberspace, preventing violence, protection against the effects of shaming, pedophiles, and early exposure to pornography and violent content which have a serious impact on children and youth.”
In addition, he explained the education system would also encourage the use of social networks for a “positive purpose, to encourage and aid those in need, to encourage a constructive and positive dialogue, and for volunteering” among others.
The Education Ministry said it sees great importance in encouraging and training pupils for “optimum conduct and the prevention of harm” online.
As such, it has introduced a new curriculum as part of the week’s activities to raise awareness of the importance of seeking help and of how to do so.
In addition, educational staff will undergo workshops on how to identify pupils in need and what to do in the event that a pupil reaches out for help.
A few weeks ago, Bennett convened a panel of experts to discuss education challenges in the era of social networks and on the online security and protection of youth.
According to statistics presented at the meeting, some 30% of Israeli first graders use a smartphone without any adult supervision.
Bennett said the discussion, which included Education Ministry representatives and experts in online security and protection, was about an issue that is “no less than life-threatening” and focused on “preventing serious mental and sexual harm.”
Bennett explained that during conversations with pupils around the country he was exposed to the online habits of youth and found that many young children were exposed to inappropriate content without supervision.
“Turning a blind eye is not an option and not a work plan,” he said at the discussion. “This is a national objective and it is time we take responsibility.”