The politics of e-safety: schoolchildren, national policy discourse and risk as property

Year: 2013

Author: Hope, Andrew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The introduction of widespread school internet access in industrialised countries has been accompanied by the materialization of what can be labelled as a national school e-safety agenda. Using the notion of discourse and drawing upon Foucault's writings as ‘little tool boxes', this paper explores how e-safety policy documents serve to constrain the conceptual environment, seeking to determine and limit individuals' thoughts on this matter. Analysing government texts it is argued that four main themes arise that subvert critical, informed debate about children and online learning. These are the limited notion of risk, the unsophisticated portrayal of children, the muting of schoolchildren's voices and issues of power / control. Numerous examples from national policy publications are used to illustrate underlying issues of power as the role of children and their voice(s) in the contemporary schooling system is considered. Insofar as policy documents enable certain forms of social action while excluding others, it is argued that the discursive distortions, limit educational potential, ignore real-world children who might consequently be disadvantaged, miss learning opportunities relating to democratic participation and serve to reinforce limiting elements of child / adult power relationships. Referencing Christie (1977), it is suggested that redefining risk as property would allow for these issues to be addressed whilst stimulating discussion about children's rights.
Christie, N. 1977. Conflicts as Property. British Journal of Criminology 17, no. 1: 1-15.