How to protect your students online


Technology is transforming teaching, but a growing reliance on the world of digital brings with it a number of issues and potential challenges for school staff.

Turning to virtual classrooms helped many through the pandemic, but L1ght, an organisation that monitors online harassment and hate speech, recorded a 70% jump in cyberbullying in 2020.

That, coupled with cyberbullying being named by teachers as the top digital issue in schools, according to Be Internet Awesome, showcases a need to make sure students are kept safe.

But what can school staff do when their pupils are more connected than ever before? It all starts with spreading knowledge, so that youngsters can make decisions when online that protect them.

Creating a safe school environment

When it comes to cyberbullying, teachers can provide valuable support to their pupils by telling them about online safety, as they can then spot when issues are arising.

Recognising cyberbullying is just the start when it comes to tackling it, as pupils must also feel like they can speak out if it happening – this is where school staff have a vital role to play in creating an environment where this is possible.

Teachers should set clear rules for all pupils at the outset and make it abundantly clear that any form of cyberbullying will not be tolerated.

Such policies should also be shared with parents, and they should also be encouraged to discuss online safety with their children at home.

You may even want to involve your pupils in the creation of usage guidelines, as alongside giving them a feeling of ownership, they might also know of apps and programmes that you have overlooked.

Constantly educating pupils

It’s important to recognise that while online technologies can provide new opportunities for children to learn, the risks also need to be tackled.

Using protective methods such as web filtering, content blockers and firewalls will only get school staff so far, as it’s highly likely pupils will still attempt to access those websites regardless.

Instead, there’s a need to educate youngsters on why those websites are not accessible in order for them to better use the internet and forge good habits. In theory, the more they know, the safer they should be online, both when accessing the internet at school and at home.

Teachers should have open discussions with pupils around the risks that certain online environments can bring and should attempt to stay up-to-date with the latest technological developments.

This will leave you well placed to answer any questions they may have and to speak as a voice of authority on the subject at a point when pupils are seeking help and reassurance.

Showcasing the importance of privacy

Youngsters can do a lot to protect themselves online by not sharing personal details and maintaining their privacy.

This may include not using their full name when logging into a platform or not using a photo of themselves as an avatar.

As a teacher, you should encourage them to always log out of apps and devices that they use, especially in classrooms and other public settings.

You may wish to limit digital lessons to certain platforms or tools, such as Google Classroom or similar, as that provides greater control over who has access, and to what materials.

Ultimately though, the most powerful tool at a teacher’s disposal when it comes to tackling online safety and cyberbullying is their ability to educate and share information.

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