E-safety Education: Young People, Surveillance and Responsibility

Barnard-Wills, David
Criminology & criminal justice

This article presents the findings of an analysis of ‘e-safety’ education material currently made available to UK schools, and currently being delivered to children and young people between the ages of five and 18. E-safety refers to the way that young people are taught about risks online, how they can protect themselves, and to whom they should report worrying activity. The article is grounded in a political understanding of education as a political strategy, and one that is conducted by multiple actors, including policing agencies. The article therefore relates e-safety education to a broader politics of surveillance, crime prevention and governmental rationalities and techniques. Formal education does not determine, but likely influences the perceptions of young people towards the digitally mediated environment – including roles of authority, appropriate behavioural norms and risk perception (currently dominated by the threat of child sexual abuse). The most commonly used and disseminated e-safety education material is that produced by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. This article examines the role of a policing agency in delivering education, one that also functions as an agent of digitally mediated surveillance in its law enforcement functions. Education is an explicit strategy of political actors involved in the politics of digitally mediated surveillance.