Does Your School Need Online Cyber Safety Education?
By Pat Craven
Did you know that 400,000 kids per year are victims of identity theft? And many children are targeted by their peers via cyberbullying. Cyberbullies may even cross the line and venture into identity theft, cloning another child’s account and tarnishing their online reputation in the process. This problem doesn’t cease once children become adults; millions of individuals lose their money, privacy and sense of security every year due to online scams. The time to start the online safety education conversation is now.
Educators have a unique position and can play an integral role in raising awareness of responsible and safe use of online resources; we can educate students that any action – intentional and unintentional – can affect their digital and behavioral history, following them forever. Children, specifically the abusers, must take responsibility and be held accountable for their actions to prevent cyberbullying across the board.
The importance of instilling strong values cannot be dismissed. No matter how advanced technology becomes, if students have learned strong values at home, they will have the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong and act accordingly without supervision, which will also work to keep them safe. It is too easy today for strangers to connect with children online, and children especially need to know what information is and is not shareable.
Here’s some practical advice to share with your students to encourage digital respect.
- If your student is subject of cyberbullying, listen to them and direct them to the proper authorities and specialists.
- Teach them that passwords are exclusive and personal and therefore not to be shared with anyone, not even best friends.
- Ensure that the digital platforms children are accessing for school are properly utilized.
- Urge parents to encourage the responsible use of electronic devices at home.
- Inform your students that no one can threaten, stalk or extort them — whether physically or digitally — and remind them that all incidents must be reported.
- Watch out for changes in a student’s behavior. Reach out and talk to them if you notice a change in their behavior.
- Encourage physical and digital respect.
As a school administrator or educator, there are many things you can do to keep yourself, your students and staff safe online. Bringing an online safety course to your school is a great option, and here are a few more easy tips you can share directly:
Online Safety Tips for Your Students and Their Parents
New Device Safety – Remind your students not to share any personal information. Encourage their parents to set up a charging station away from their child’s room to limit screen time at night. They should also change the default password, disable photo geotagging and set up non-administrative accounts.
Gaming – Encourage your students to have private in-game chats only with their IRL (in-real-life) friends. Encourage their parents to set rules for time limits and allowed games as well as implementing restrictions in the app store to prevent them from downloading any questionable apps.
Social Media – Encourage your student’s parents to require parental approval of social groups and networks and to “friend” or “follow” their children to check in on their social media activity. Ensure their child’s profile is set to private.
Cyberbullying – Teach your students to immediately report offensive and harmful comments. Talk with them about cyberbullying, including unintentional bullying, recognizing signs of cyberbullying. Act swiftly and help your students and their parents to work together to take action with their teacher(s) and principal, if necessary.
Online Safety Tips for School Staff and Parents
Online Shopping – Use a credit card instead of a debit card for additional fraud protection. Don’t store credit card numbers on websites. Instead, use “https” when visiting websites. Create strong, unique passwords.
Avoid Phishing Scams – Learn how to identify and avoid bogus emails from trusted sources that aim to collect private information to open new accounts—or invade existing ones.
Together, these tips will help maintain a healthy school environment of digital respect that is free of cyberbullying and cyberviolence.
Interested in benefiting your students for the rest of their lives? Bring a Cyber Safety Day to your school to educate your students on how to maintain their overall positive digital citizenship.
About the author
Patrick “Pat” Craven is the Executive Director of the Center for Cyber Safety and Education. He has more than 35 years of experience in the nonprofit industry and has held various C-Level executive leadership roles across the country at notable charitable organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America (24 years), Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington D.C. He is a sought-after speaker and writer on how to keep children and families safe and secure online and is a regular guest on radio, tv and podcast around the world.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.