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Written Statement - Social Networking Sites in Education

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

I am writing to update members on the action which I have taken to support safe and responsible use of social networking sites in education.

In my Oral Statement of 19 February 2013, I advised that the Welsh Government was working closely with the National Digital Learning Council and UK Safer Internet Centre to ensure that learners in Wales have the best possible advice on e-safety.  The all Wales learning platform, Hwb, which I launched last year, will allow us to host e-safety resources centrally for all schools and help teachers to raise awareness of e-safety issues with parents and pupils.  Through Hwb, I want to champion a culture of safe and responsible digital citizenship in Wales. 

For children to develop the skills and knowledge they need to become confident digital citizens, they need to understand how to use the Internet safely under supervision and independently.  

In recent years, the use of social networking sites has become integral to day to day use of the Internet.   This is especially true for children and young people and it is essential, therefore, that we engage with them through their education on how to stay safe online and on the importance of respecting others.  The current widespread practice by local authorities of blocking access to social networking sites in schools does not help us to achieve this aim, although I recognise that such restrictions were founded in understandable concerns about online predators and bullying.   I am therefore writing to all authorities tomorrow, to ask them to work with us on a new and more positive approach

I wholly support measures which safeguard children.