For us who are aware—it is close to an accountability! What is? Helping ensure that the communities of which we are a part are eSafe.

eSafety is one of the hottest topics in the European learning scene at the moment—spanning all areas and sectors from pre-school to continuous professional development and everything in between. Hardly a day goes by without some report of Internet security breaches somewhere causing at least inconvenience and often misery and long term harm to the victims. Research reports constantly highlight the lack of awareness that is rife. Small wonder then that there is a daily litany of shocking court cases as a result of abuse, all too frequently stemming from “friending” on the net. The list of risks is long and broad and seems to grow with little evidence of any ability to control, ameliorate, or eliminate them. Internet fraud, pedophilia, cyber-bullying, racism, and radicalization hit the headlines. So too does the increasingly frequent hacking of organizational systems.

This piece throws a spotlight on a problem that affects us all directly but one in which I believe we have some responsibility for helping those we provide with great learning, but who in many cases are less skilled than ourselves in recognizing and managing the risks associated with using the Internet.

The problem goes further than the abhorrent issues I have already named. Devices becoming popular through the Internet of Things and our increasing use of remote control of our homes are also very vulnerable because many contain little, if any, of the inbuilt security that has become axiomatic when we sit in front of a computer. Failure to acknowledge and deal with the risk of hacking through these “open doors” is a real issue. In the workplace we have become complacent because the IT function gives us a safe environment in which to work—provided we obey the rules! Then there is the issue of our Internet legacies—but that is a different topic.

We have to learn to safeguard our own homes in a new way. And, even if we have the awareness, research throughout Europe reveals that most adults do not have the necessary skills. Even using parental filters to protect children is beyond most according to a UK survey! Many people pay little attention to the need for password security—sometimes failing to protect at all. As our world moves ever more to operating online, some are so scared of the security issues they refuse to engage—making themselves vulnerable in other ways as well.

I am a governor of a small primary school in a quiet rural part of England. Even there we need to give an apparently disproportionate level of attention to the safety aspects of what should be simply an incredible aid to stupendous learning. And the focus we have on the learning may be the very problem—we direct our energies there and forget that the Internet and electronic revolution is actually about the evolution of a new way of life and mind-set. It is a way of living that is totally natural for the youngsters in our little school. It is their world, they know nothing else. But its intricacies are learned behaviors for all of us born in the world before the net. We need to make real efforts to create conscious competence in that new world.

For many, developing that awareness and skill is a part of our ongoing learning, but for many others the whole complexity of the net, social media, and the increasingly technological future present a frightening and daunting scenario—and one where fear and lack of knowledge and expertise leaves them and everyone around them in a vulnerable position. Recognizing that, like any system, eSafety is as good as its weakest point, my little school is embarking on a journey that is a daunting challenge. An outcome of a robust strategy to support kids from pre-school to their pre-teen years is to position the school as a developing Centre of Excellence for the whole community—kids through to their great grandparents, some of them nonagenarians. The children will apply their own learning to “teach” their parents, grandparents, and care givers. A pipe dream? No! That is exactly what the adults are asking for, here in our village, and also nationally.

So what can we do from our informed, influential, and connected environments as eLearning professionals? Has the time come for our eLearning offerings to contain an eSafety “hint and tip” item in the same way that workplace safety has benefitted from constant reminders?