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NAPCE’s 2017 Pastoral Care in the Digital Era

A New Field of Pastoral Care

Pastoral care has traditionally focused on the physical and psychological environment that we create for our young people, but as ‘screen time’ increases, we question how aware are we of the potential, influence, strategies and consequences of the digital world?

Firstly, the learning potential for students able to critically analyse and use a resourcefulness has been increased by an incalculable amount with the vast tool of the internet. If we can embed the skills to seek a solid source and then separate the wheat from the chaff, our students have a life-long learning textbook with an ‘easy to use’ index. From cooking a new dish to extending our numeracy with the likes of the free online tuition from the Khan Academy, it is about an individual seeking the challenge, because the answer is usually there.

Many schools have also used social media as an effective tool for parental engagement, e.g. to forward information through Facebook and Twitter, and all parents are now encouraged to comment regularly through Parent View.

As screen time increases, the blur between reality and the digital world gets fuzzier. Are your standards in quality of life set against the celebrities on Instagram or music videos? Is your digital profile how the world sees you and does that stop when you get home and close the door? There is no set quantity of influence on each child, as each is an individual, but it is difficult to challenge that the influence is growing and physical social interaction is shrinking.

An example of risks to those under 11 years of age is musically. A lip-synching video app with the intention of gaining followers. If you do not set privacy settings, the video can be watched by anybody. Anybody who watches the video can send a message to the child, share the video on other platforms (eg Instagram) and even download it to a PC.

Pokemon Go! is quite safe. But, it takes young people into the physical environment – so stranger danger rules apply. Adults can play too. They’re all looking in the same places.

Twitch on the iPad, Xbox, Playstation (growing in use Years 5-9) is a live streaming app. It livestreams and strangers can interact as you play. There are facilities to “gift” people as they play.

For those a little older, Snapchat. You need to turn off geolocation services within the app.
If you take a selfie and somebody transfers the image to Instagram, all the details of the photo are sent with it. If geolocation is on it is easy to find out where the photo was taken.

A reminder that posting on Twitter – and, by association, Facebook and other social media platforms – is not conversation or ‘bantz’, but a form of publication for which you can be held to account. Freedom of speech gives you the right to express your opinion and your right must be respected. But if you can’t do that without being abusive, you have to accept responsibility for your actions should you get admonished, blocked or sued.


There is also a Government website that has resources and information for parents other stakeholders as well as a link to report any worrying activity that has involved your children.

In the case where parents and carers are complaining on social media, Kent County Council (1st Edition, August 2016) have created some clear guidelines for schools.

Be aware that being allowed to watch inappropriate online activity may be a safeguarding issue.

It is for us to become more aware of internet safety, the safety settings (and how some can get round them!) and discuss it with children. If they see you as a threat, then lies are far more likely. Establish expectations with your child about what they play, and what to do if they come across inappropriate activity. Praise children for sharing concerns and involve them in decision-making about what to do next (Don’t just ban them from the app. They won’t tell you next time). Use settings on device and in app to block inappropriate activity. Be prepared to change these further. For advice or to report serious abuse, use (or through ) and make sure all children are aware of this option too.

NAPCE recognises that this barely scratches the surface of where to begin and is questionning how deep an impact techonology is having on learning and the development of students, we look to find the strengths and highlight the risks.

Don’t forget about the recent call for papers for a ‘Special Issue-Journal of Pastoral Care in Education Mental Health and Well-Being of Children and Young People’.

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