Ensuring Online Privacy and Safety For Students

I have written previously about all of the opportunities that new technologies are providing for students to be both consumers and creators of knowledge. These opportunities are exciting  to me and motivating to students. All of these new opportunities  do, however, need to be tempered with a view to ensuring the safety and security of our students in this online world. In the rest of our school environments we ensure that we lock doors, fence in our property, provide tumbling mats, and ensure that students are supervised by adults when participating in school activities. It is important for schools to put the same amount of thoughtful care into our students’ online school environments. How can we do this? I have a few suggestions.

Make Sure Your Networks/Hardware/Settings are Well Thought Out
It is important that before we  put technology in the hands of kids that we think about things like firewalls, virus protection, and network and app security settings have been planned out in a thoughtful way. Just as we wouldn’t set our kids to play on a playground tgat hasn’t been properly set up, we shouldn’t let our kids into an online environment that hasn’t been thoughtfully planned out.

I love having my kids blog. It allows them to share their learning with a broader audience that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I do also know from experience that there are times that kids write things that are either insensitive or downright rude. That is why I moderate our blog. I need to read and approve all comments and posts before they go online. This allows me to be a gatekeeper between what my students write and what they make public.

Set Guidelines
As teachers we work out guidelines for what we expect from our students in all areas of our physical classroom. Why would this be any different online? Students need guidelines that remind them what information should and shouldn’t be shared, what your expectations are forvthe activity that they are participating in, and how you want them to interact with others.

Talk To Them. Often.
I think I do a pretty good job talkin ng to my students about online safety. It is a topic we talk about in one form or another every few months. It never fails, though, that at least once a year someone will come and talk to me about other students with open instagram or facebook accounts, youtube videos that no one knows about, or someone finding ways to be hurtful to others online. These are the teachable moments that we need to embrace that allow us to have a discussion with our students.

The safety of our students is of paramount importance to all of the teachers that I know. We need to work together to ensure that their online environments are as safe as their physical environments.

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