Keeping Students Safe Online: Stop Being Scared and Be Prepared

Some of the most inventive achievements of human beings throughout history are attempts to prevent or curb the many threats we face. The concept of “insurance” dates as far back as four millennia ago, when Chinese and Babylonian traders would distribute their goods across numerous shipping vessels in order to reduce risk of great loss.

We’ve effectively cured a number of diseases and put an end to various plagues, some of which were of epidemic proportions. The erection of territorial walls and their destruction have both served to preserve lives and the integrity of the human spirit.

Throughout history, human beings at their best have found ways to be proactive in the face of threats and fears. We are successful when we find ways to be prepared and stop being scared. There are many ways K-12 schools and districts, too, have safeguarded themselves against the threats to online student safety, many ways you can stop being scared and start being prepared.

Network Security

Network security provides a baseline for how you might be proactive against the threat of student safety, by limiting access to malware, access to inappropriate online content and more. Although it provides a decent starting point for student safety, it cannot be regarded as a complete solution. For example, even if access to social media is blocked, students can use school-sanctioned communication services like G Suite for Education or Office 365 to harass one another.

Reporting Harassment and Bullying

Some schools have implemented reporting systems as a measure to prevent students from bullying and harassing one another. Reporting systems can be anonymized, so that parents and students are more likely to report incidents. While this offers a great step forward, again, it is only a piece of a fully effective solution for student safety.

Safety Management

Safety Management refers to content analysis and expert review of student content in email communications, calendars, files and more. This is a great complement to Network Security and Reporting Systems, inasmuch as it will catch a lot more than those solutions on their own. Safety Management provides the review of internal collaboration and productivity tools without limiting usage (e.g. restricting student communications to teachers or preventing collaboration).

Safety Management will provide early warning detection of incidents in situations where students are concerned about the consequences of reporting harassment and bullying. Also,  Safety Management has proven to track records of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse and other similar situations which cannot be detected by other means as easily.

Digital Citizenship Education

Perhaps the best, albeit most difficult, measure is Digital Citizenship education. It is one thing to put into place measures that limit student access or catch students in the act. It is another thing entirely to train students on how to behave online and engender in them a sense of decency and respect toward others. I believe that this is difficult because it actually entails shaping the moral attitudes of students. It is, however, the greatest, because if it is done truly well, other measures become increasingly obsolete.

Of course, that likely won’t happen in the near future (and some would convincingly argue that there will always be issues with student behavior), so the best approach to student safety involves combining all of these measures.

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