Pupils need internet lessons to thrive online, say Lords

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Learning to survive in a world dominated by the internet should be as important for children as reading and writing, says a House of Lords report.

Lessons about online responsibilities, risks and acceptable behavior should be mandatory in all UK schools, the Lords Communications Committee argues.

The internet is "hugely beneficial" but children need awareness of its hazards, said committee chairman Lord Best.

Industry leaders said education was key to keeping children safe online.

The Lords report builds on findings by the Children's Commissioner for England in January that the internet is not designed for children, despite them being the biggest users by age group.

"Children inhabit a world in which every aspect of their lives is mediated through technology: from health to education, from socializing to entertainment.

"Yet the recognition that children have different needs to those of adults has not yet been fully accepted in the online world," say the Lords.
Fake news

Lord Best added: "There is a lot of material which makes the internet harmful but it can also be hugely beneficial - a way for children to interact and find out about the world."

However, they need to cope with online pornography, internet grooming, sexting and body image issues, he said, as well as building resilience to the addictive properties of internet games which are "designed and developed to keep users online, missing out on sleep as they stay in their bedrooms glued to the screen".

Children also need to be aware of the dangers of fake news and covert advertising online, he added.

The report argues that "digital literacy should be the fourth pillar of a child's education alongside reading, writing and mathematics and be resourced and taught accordingly".

It should form the core of a new curriculum for personal social health and economic education, it adds.

It backs the government's move to make sex and relationships education statutory in England but says PSHE should also be mandatory in all schools, with the subject included in inspections. 

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