What was that?

Where were you on Sunday 23rd April 2023 at 3pm? I was in a large museum, wandering around exhibits with hundreds of other people. All of a sudden, as if in a film, this strange siren noise reverberated throughout the building. People started to look at their phones and then I remembered.

It was the Government’s new Emergency Alert test!

Did it happen to you?

This was the biggest public communications exercise of its kind ever done in the UK. You might have received the alert and like me, wondered what kind of dystopian world you had been dropped into.

Many reported receiving the alert a minute early, a day later or some not at all. Three Mobile users seemed to have entirely missed out, which is now being investigated.

As lessons are learned and mobile networks feedback to the Government, the alerts have become topical small talk. Perhaps you’ve heard much of this in your classroom or staff rooms already!

It has brought up an opportunity however, to discuss our phones and how they can help (and hinder) our daily lives. Below are some ways you may wish to explore this with your pupils, and where our Life to the Full Secondary content can support these discussions.

The facts about Emergency Alerts

The Government website tells us that Emergency Alerts will be sent by the Government or emergency services to warn you if there’s a danger to life nearby. These dangerous events may be severe flooding, fires or extreme weather.

Your phone will make a siren-like noise, vibrate and may even read out the alert message. Watch this video to hear what the alert sounds like.

When these are used in real circumstances, there will be instructions on what to do next. You might like to use these FAQs published by the Government to further your discussions too.

Do our phones hurt or do they help?

It’s no surprise that this new UK wide feature has split opinion.

Benefits of bringing awareness to life threatening events have been countered by claims of nanny statism, fears about an increase in scams, and concern that victims of domestic abuse will be put at risk if their hidden phones are discovered – which many people shared about on social media in an effort to protect others.

With teenagers, it helps to encourage healthy debate and listening to the opinion of others.

You might want to explore the following questions with your class:

  • What are the positives of the new Emergency Alert?
  • Why might people be against the Emergency Alert system?
  • What have the Government done to make these alerts inclusive?
  • Do you think the Emergency Alerts will prevent harm to people?

Privacy and data security

This automatic new alert system does help us think about other ways our phones do things for us without our thinking or informed consent. Ultimately we should strive to bring more awareness to our phone security and access to our personal data.

Life to the Full Secondary

The following sessions highlight the risks and responsibilities that come with our screen time. These have an impact not only on our safety but our wellbeing too. Drawing attention to these areas will help pupils to understand why their choices around phone use are so important.

My Life on Screen

Session 1: My Life on Screen

Rooted in the RE teaching that we are made out of love for love, pupils will explore their digital lives and the effect our use of digital technology can have on ourselves and others.

Go to Session
One Hundred Percent

Session 2: One Hundred Percent

In this lesson, pupils will learn about non-physical and online consent (physical consent and sexual exploitation are covered in the next session). They will learn that consent given under pressure or coercion is not true consent.

Go to Session

Image Source: Citizens Advice Doncaster Borough