A new word is increasingly dominating all conversations about education: “online.” From online courses to online resources, more and more of the educational curriculum focuses on connecting students to the broader world.
However, the internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to education. It can distract just as quickly as it can enlighten. And if educators are not careful, it can even put students in danger!
It means that any school embracing any aspects of online education must also champion online safety. But what is the best way to get started? Here are five critical steps that any school can take to enhance their online educational curriculum.
1 – Smarter Access
One of the biggest concerns of both parents and teachers is that students will stumble upon sites they should not have access to. And, of course, some students may go out of their way to find such websites.
The obvious solution to this issue is a strict online filter that controls what they can (and cannot) access. However, this is a “solution” that, if poorly implemented, may cause more problems.
It all comes down to child psychology. If a school tells them something is forbidden, and they should not explore it, this doesn’t keep them from exploring it. It merely ensures they will explore it later on when no one is watching.
A better access system is one that still allows students to access such sites. However, it also sends an alert to teachers (and potentially parents) about the access attempt.
This opens an opportunity for a conversation about online safety. Simply relying on a traditional filtering system would prevent such discussions and potentially encourage secretive browsing.
2 – Getting Parents Involved
There can be no real online safety initiative without parental involvement. This is why schools should host parental workshops and other activities to raise parental awareness about internet safety.
Such workshops are a great way to make parents aware of threats they didn’t even know about. And just as importantly, these workshops can lead to a set of ground rules about online access at home. Such ground rules will reinforce what teachers are doing with online resources and safety procedures, creating a consistent experience for students.
Combined parental and teacher efforts can also help to encourage positive behaviours regarding online interactions. Ideally, this will help mitigate threats such as bullying and create a sense of online community and fellowship.
3 – Internet Introduction
With online educational resources, schools face a unique challenge. On the one hand, teachers cannot assume that every child has had the same level of internet access and experience. Therefore, it’s essential to offer some introduction to using the internet.
At the same time, you want such an introduction to be meaningful and relevant. If the majority of students already understand the basics, then such a formal introduction will be mostly redundant.
How should such an introduction proceed, then? Ideally, there will be a basic introduction towards the beginning of their education (such as early in primary school) and a more advanced introduction later on (such as the beginning of secondary school).
This allows a “scaffolded” approach to internet education. It ensures that everyone has been introduced to the basics while allowing teachers to bring in more advanced techniques at regular intervals.
4 – Safety Curriculum
As adults, we take certain internet safety tips for granted. This includes things like not giving out sensitive information to strangers, avoiding sketchy websites, deleting suspicious emails, and so on.
However, students (especially younger students) tend to be especially credulous online. That is why every school should offer a progressive safety curriculum to teach and reinforce online safety.
Parents should also reinforce these lessons at home. Typically, parents are all too eager to help: proper online safety helps their children to dodge everything from computer viruses to online predators!
As dark as that subject matter may be, it’s important to tell students just what is at stake here. They must know that trusting online strangers with their information can endanger their very lives.
5 – Tech Check
Speaking of parents, many of them are eager to take active measures regarding online safety. However, most parents are not aware of all the technological tools that will help them monitor and mediate their child’s internet use.
That’s why schools should have special days where parents can bring their child’s mobile devices to an IT professional. Such a professional can help them set up appropriate device filters while also checking the privacy settings on things like social media accounts.
Older children may indeed bristle at these steps. But this technique is one of the best ways to make parents part of the online safety solution for students.
5 Smart Ways to Champion Online Safety at School