With virtual education becoming the norm, rising concerns about keeping students safe online exist. Many online education platforms store students’ information without transparency on how this collected data is used. Many other platforms that offer support services and supplemental education material that students may use for their studies may not be using enterprise security or handling data with industry-standard safety protocols. This can lead to a wide range of data breaches and other such cyber security issues. Hence, there’s a dire need to create awareness among kids early on to navigate the internet safely. Since online education is here to stay, we must not neglect online safety.
Here are a few tips for parents and teachers to keep students safe online.
Educate kids on how to use the internet
It can be overwhelming for parents to see their kids at high risk with digital education and technology making a way in their lives in every sphere. Kids will use technology for education; they will make friends online, talk to new people and be out there to experience and try new things. This can be a matter of concern for parents. However, it is not advisable to refrain kids from tech exposure. Parents must accept that technology is a new reality, kids are at high risk in this digital era and the best way to manage it is through learning how to navigate it.
A few practices that can keep kids safe online include using parental controls, monitoring online activity, using tools and software to help provide a safe digital environment, etc. Keeping kids away from the web as a safety measure will not work in the long run.
As for educators, make sure you have a digital access plan in place and work on it consistently to keep students safe. Stay flexible to address challenges whenever you face them and consider feedback from students and their opinions while working on digital access plans. This will help you understand their stance on technology usage, and you’d be able to educate them to differentiate between ethical and unethical use of technology and the internet.
Create a safe digital environment
Half the work is done when you plan to move safely online. Begin with a plan and set boundaries for kids. For instance, determine how much time they’re allowed on social media, overall screen time, what cases are exceptions, and structure their online activity accordingly. Have clear rules for online tracking monitoring and set parental controls wherever required. Teachers must look into the online resources kids refer to and refine the resources for student access. They must also have clear instructions on the technology they must use, like mandatory digital tools for web tracking and site block tools, and the ones they cannot.
Communicate With Students
Once you have your rules and plan in place, you must communicate everything to students in the classroom, and parents must speak to kids at home. For teachers, ensure that kids are well aware of the rules of using the internet in schools. They must use the digital space responsibly, adhering to all the rules. The situation calls for a little finesse for kids who do not follow the rules. Be honest with students and educate them about the consequences of the digital world and how they can navigate safely in it.
As for parents, discussing internet usage and tech rules at home with kids is equally important. Most importantly, model healthy digital usage for your kids to inherit the same behaviours.
Guidelines for Parents
Here are a few guidelines for parents to set rules and keep kids safe online:
- Do not give away personal information on social media. Sharing passwords, pictures, addresses, social media check-ins and more such information can pose a threat to kids’ safety. Educate kids to set boundaries and guide them on where and how much information they should share.
- Ensure that kids understand they do not have to share every piece of information any website asks. They must seek permission from parents or speak to their teachers before pressing share. For younger kids, it’s essential they seek their parent’s permission before posting photos or videos.
- While creating a username, do not include personal information like last name or birth date.
- Kids should not share passwords with anyone except their parents.
- They must recheck computers when using a public system and ensure they log out and erase all the data.
- Teenagers make friends online, and young adults often network with people on social media. However, one must be cautious with every move on the internet. Do not meet any and every person you’ve met online. Parents must know about people kids are in touch with or have met in the digital world. Often, people pretend to be someone they aren’t, which can lead kids to dangerous situations. Build trust and comfort in the relationship so that kids can share information about their online friendships with you.
- Online Ads are a common online scam. Modern-age technology and devices listen to your audio inputs and track your digital footprint, making it easier for online scammers to land you in phishing frauds. Ensure kids cannot access digital payment modes or make any transactions without parents’ permission/supervision.
- Emails and spam may contain downloadables that can hack all your information. Educate kids about ethical downloading and how they can avoid such scams.
- Bullying behind the screens is prevalent. Educate kids about its consequences and ensure they have the necessary support when they see online bullying. Educate kids about the ethical use of the internet and how they must respond to any uncomfortable online activity.
Read this post on 5 Ways Teachers Can Help Students in Their Online Learning Journey. The article highlights how teachers can play an active role in helping students in their online learning journey and shares various tips on including healthy digital habits in academics. Read this post to learn further about altering pedagogies, peer collaboration and promoting ethical internet usage and more.
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If you are a parent or teacher of teens, you must check out this post on Digital Drama. It highlights the consequences of cyberbullying and how you can create a dialogue around educating teens about it.
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Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives, and the internet fuels it. There is no way we can keep kids away from technology; neither that’d be the right approach. Instead, we recommend educating kids about healthy digital habits, being mindful while using the internet and learning how to use it “as a tool”. The above-mentioned tips will help you inculcate healthy digital habits among kids and stay safe online.