The Greatest Threat to Student Online Safety

Who do you think poses the greatest threat to online student safety? When asked this question, you might imagine a shady, older, online predator with malicious and abusive intentions—the type of character who shows up at the door on NBC’s To Catch a Predator.

Media and television have no doubt reinforced this presupposition: The greatest threat to your children must lie outside of the school walls. To counteract this threat, schools and districts will sometimes limit student communications to other students and teachers within the organization. This is often referred to as a “Walled Garden” approach to student safety.

We don’t think this approach is effective. In fact, our CEO published a blog post on the exact topic entitled Tear Down Your Walled Garden. His post focused on the difference between taking prohibitive measures and protective measures to student safety.

We remain convinced that the Walled Garden approach, while it may provide an illusion of comfort, simply
doesn’t work well for two reasons:

1-2016Last year, among schools and districts that use Gaggle, well over 95% of the harmful situations discovered by Safety Representatives involved threats within the organization. While there are predators outside the school, over 20 times more often the greatest threat to a student is his or her peers. These harmful situations include cyberbullying, intentions of violence or self-harm, drug and alcohol use, serious domestic troubles and more.

2-2016Walled Gardens aren’t effective, because predators will still find a way to reach students. Whether it is through social media, a mobile app, a personals website or a blog, predators will succeed in communicating with minors. We advise all of our customers to open student communications to the wider world in hopes that our technology and Safety Representatives can catch these communications if and when they occur, instead of allowing them to remain off the radar with alternative media of communication.

The greatest threat to online student safety is other students. Schools and districts cannot merely take prohibitive measures to prevent students from communicating to predators outside of the organization; they must additionally take protective measures against threats within the walls of the school.

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