How to protect your students online
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
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
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
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
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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