Even before schools across the country were closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the online tuition industry was booming. At an increasingly early age, parents are starting their children working with tutors. Often, it’s to brush up on key skills before SATS testing, or to prepare for a senior school entrance exam. Other parents just don’t want their children falling behind and hire a tutor to deliver weekly lessons to reinforce the basics of numeracy and literacy. Increasingly, parents are turning to online tuition for both convenience and to cut costs on face to face lessons. But should we be concerned about how safe our children are during online tuition sessions?
Recent research by leading child protection charity the NSPCC has brought the subject of online grooming to the top of the news agenda. Their research didn’t just focus on tuition and online education but looked at all instances of online grooming. Shockingly, 1 in 5 victims are aged under 11, with a total of over 5000 reported incidents recorded. It’s fairly clear that the social media channels are not able to adequately check on their users as it’s easy for a child under the age of 13 to put in a false date of birth and register for an account on WhatsApp or Instagram. Parents can’t supervise what their children are doing at all times, and there is a balance between educating children to the dangers and forbidding social media use altogether.
What’s the Danger from Tuition?
The main issue arising from online tuition is that often the teacher is directly communicating with the student over a platform like Skype, Zoom or Facetime. In a traditional situation of a tutor coming to the house, parents can be around and within earshot of what is being said. The same is not true of online tuition, where the child is often on their own in a quiet place.
The second huge issue is around disclosure checks for online tutors. Many tutors are registered teachers, who top up their income from working in schools with some extra work at evenings or weekends. These people will be fully vetted and checked out and will hold enhanced disclosures for their main job. Other tutors are not legally compelled to get such a high level of disclosure check before accepting students. In fact, all that most self-employed tutors can do is to get a basic disclosure certificate, which just shows their current criminal record. If you’ve agreed to use a tutor based overseas for your children, how do you know their background?
Issues with Zoom
Many schools around the UK are looking for different ways to deliver education while schools have closed. Some have embraced technology and are using platforms to create a virtual classroom online. But this isn’t without its issues either. One of the most popular video conferencing apps, Zoom, has been repeatedly targeted by hackers trying to stream pornography into online council meetings or school sessions. It’s therefore perhaps understandable why many parents are putting online schooling on hold at present.