Technology can Help Boost Online Safety in K-12

The internet can be a great way to collaborate and access resources, but it can also be teeming with threats. From cyberbullying to scams to hacks, there is plenty of bad on the web. Technological advances like “safe-search” and built-in security protocols have done a lot to help combat these issues.

However, the first step is to teach kids and teens how to make the most of digital resources while staying safe.

A survey from the Pew Research Center reported that 24 percent of teens say they are online “almost constantly.” The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2013, 71 percent of the U.S. population aged 3 and over had used the internet. That percentage is likely even higher today.

By encouraging digital citizenship, teachers can show students how to use online resources properly and teach them which security elements to keep in mind while doing so.

Common Sense Education, a nonprofit devoted to helping kids navigate the tech-filled world, has a set of resources for teachers and administrators to use in order to help students.

In the lesson plan for privacy and security, it says a key step for teaching online security comes from guiding students on how to create a strong password. For example, Common Sense suggests that passwords should be more than eight characters long with a blend of letters, numbers and symbols.

Vicki Davis, a Georgia educator, says that a great way to engage students in lessons about digital citizenship is to have them actually teach the lesson. Students will create tutorials or presentations exposing common scams and tell others how to protect themselves. By dissecting cons and scams, students become more vigilant themselves.

Filters and Features Create Online Safety

Even the best digital citizens need a safety net. One device that has built-in default settings for phishing and malware alerts is the Chromebook. Google for Education says the devices are designed so that no additional security is needed.

Many schools also use website filtering software to make sure that students are strictly visiting only academic sites. Some software can also monitor student activity, or show the teacher the screens of the students.

Another popular tip is to institute a multifactor authentication policy. Practices like a security photo or a code sent to a mobile device go a long way in keeping a school safe.

Crack Down On Cyberbullies with Digital Tools

These technologies help students stay safe from malware, but keeping them safe from cyberbullies is a whole different issue.

About one in every four teens has experienced bullying while online. Thanks to some new technologies, that trend could soon reduce.

Bark is a watchdog software that monitors kids’ social networks (through the use of advanced algorithms) and sends alerts to parents when an issue like cyberbullying might be occurring.

After seeing the devastating consequences of cyberbullying, Trisha Prabhu, then 13, sought to create a software with context filtering to take cyberbullies head on, reports U.S. News and World Report. Her creation, ReThink, is now available for free to schools and parents.

Using its filters, ReThink determines if something a student is about to post is offensive and gives that student a second chance to reconsider what they are about to say.

“Research shows that when adolescents are alerted to rethink their decisions, they change their minds 93 percent of the time,” ReThink’s website states.

With all these technological advancements, both good and bad things come into the mix. Always remember to stay vigilant about what students are doing and take precautions before something preventable happens.

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