The Dangers of Using the Internet – Can We Keep Our Students Safe?

Schools need to educate students regarding the dangers of using the internet. Teachers and parents must be aware of the risks and show children how to be safe while online.

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Dangers:

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is when people engage in offensive online behaviours, which are meant to degrade or harass another. Social networking sites like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram allow people to send messages to each other anonymously. The lack of face-to-face interaction can create a negative social environment because no one takes responsibility for the messages sent. Educators need to teach students how to behave in a respectful manner while online. At school clear limits must be set, so students understand what is appropriate and what is not. Parents should also be part of this discussion so respectful and safe online behaviours can continue at home.

Exposure to inappropriate content

Schools must establish boundaries for online sites that students can visit during class. Exposure to inappropriate information or images can hurt the student’s ability to process their understanding of the content. Teachers must control the online environment in their classroom and talk to students regularly about their internet usage. If a student happens to access an inappropriate site, they need someone to help them learn from their mistake. Supervision is the best support for students, while they are on the internet. When parents and teachers monitor internet activity, they can help students get out of sites they mistakenly access. Most school boards have implemented blocking and monitoring software, but it is necessary to teach children what to do when they encounter inappropriate sites while at home and in the community. Filtering and monitoring software can also be purchased to help parents restrict access to sites with adult content.

Revealing too much information

Students must understand why it is important to keep their information private. At times, they are allowing access to their information without even knowing it is happening. Parents and teachers need to educate students on how to protect themselves from online predators. Monitoring software programs are available, which enables parents to check their child’s social network activity.

How can we keep our students safe? Be proactive! 

School board’s safety standards and acceptable use policies ensure that parents provide consent before information is shared regarding underage students. Boards block sites that are inappropriate for school. Children may not have the same safeguards, which are available in schools, while surfing the internet at home. It is important to teach students how to be digitally responsible with technology at home and school. What can teachers do, so students understand the reason for safety measures?

Monitor Discussions and Visual Content

Teachers can create classroom guidelines to ensure safe practices when using mobile devices, like cell phones. Parents and teachers need to monitor what the students are doing online at home and school. Everyone has the responsibility to look after each other when it comes to internet safety. If someone is concerned about inappropriate messaging, they must understand the reasons they should report. A respectful, caring culture developed in the classroom empowers students to keep each other safe and to report inappropriate use.

Case studies

Case studies can be created to model safe internet practices. Case studies are an effective classroom strategy because students collaborate with their teacher and their peers regarding safe online practices. By creating scenarios that students can work through, they learn how to respond to negative comments in real-life situations. Case studies can be discussed at school and home. Students brainstorm ways to solve the safety issue and share their message with the rest of the class.

Educate parents

Parents need to understand and model respectful online behaviours. They can work in partnership with the school to ensure consistency of online safety messages. For elementary students, parents can set up controls to help eliminate the exposure to inappropriate sites visited by accident. Parents need to have conversations with their child about their internet activity and the steps to take when they feel uncomfortable with the content or images. Parent and teacher support are the best resources regarding safety practice for students because they can monitor internet usage, and discussions can take place.

Helpful Resources

http://www.parents.com/kids/safety/internet/

http://www.netsmartz.org/InternetSafety

http://www.covenanteyes.com/2012/05/22/5-dangers-of-the-internet-for-kids/

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/internet-safety-younger-elementary-mary-beth-hertz

References

Moreno, M. A., Egan, K. G., Bare, K., Young, H. N., & Cox, E. D. (2013). Internet safety education for youth: Stakeholder perspectives. BMC Public Health, 13, 543. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-543

Youn, S. (2005). Teenagers’ perceptions of online privacy and coping behaviors: A risk-benefit appraisal approach. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 49(1), 86-110. doi:10.1207/s15506878jobem4901_6

Youn, S. (2009). Determinants of online privacy concern and its influence on privacy protection behaviors among young adolescents. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 43(3), 389-418. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6606.2009.01146.x

Author: Roxanne Hibberd

Roxanne is a principal in YRDSB. She has enjoyed being an educator for the past thirty-five years. Her passion for lifelong learning continues as she is a student in the UOIT MEd program.

2 thoughts on “The Dangers of Using the Internet – Can We Keep Our Students Safe?”

  1. I think yu have this wrong Roxanne. I agree that more authentic discussion needs to take place among students, teacher and parents. Real discussion where one group does not try to control the other, but real listening occurs. Yes basic education is needed about risks that students, teachers and parents may not be aware of. BUT establishing strict rules, supervision, and an externally controlled atmosphere does not teach students to control themselves, especially when they are teens.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Robin! I agree that teachers need to provide lessons regarding digital responsibility and have conversations with students regarding how to be safe technology users because of their access to mobile devices. As an administrator in an elementary school, I also have to look at our ‘duty of care’ and ensure that we are following policies and procedures regarding the legal protection of children. This does not mean they have the same safe parameters outside of school, and that is why the conversations need to happen. Students must understand how to be safe digital users. I found an excellent vodcast in my other UOIT course, by John Traxler. His video is on ‘The Future of Mobile Learning’ and he highlights the etiquette of using mobile technology in classrooms. Very relevant to our discussion and my continued learning!

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