Safer Internet Day is coming up on Tuesday, February 8th. Sponsored in the U.S. by ConnectSafely, a non-profit dedicated to “educating people about safety, privacy, security and digital wellness,” Safer Internet Day is an annual day of online security and safety programs. According to their website, Safer Internet Day “aims to not only create a safer internet but also a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.” And there are so many ways for schools to participate in this mission. Here are just a few of the ways that schools can participate in Safer Internet Day.
Programs for Schools
Though this year’s livestreams may be delayed, there’s still a wealth of Safer Internet Day content for schools. In preparation for this year, the organizers spoke with parents, students, and teachers nationwide. They discussed their greatest concerns related to the internet, including “online safety and wellbeing.” Then, organizers engaged experts on these topics, gathering their insights in recorded conversations. Many discussions cover mental, emotional, and social health. For instance, you’ll find talks about body image, comparing one’s self to one’s peers, and that ever-present “FOMO.” Other conversations center around safety issues such as misinformation and cyberbullying. You’ll even find content about how students can make a difference online and off through youth activism.
Prepare a Curriculum for the Day
There are many ways to incorporate internet safety and wellbeing into your curriculum, both on Safer Internet Day and beyond. Try dedicating twenty minutes of class to discussing internet safety with students. Mentioning netiquette and cyber-safety in your talks will help students to understand how to be responsible and healthy in their internet usage. Teachers can also use Safer Internet Day videos as a launching point for group discussions. Have students — perhaps with their families — watch a clip or film showing how to be a responsible internet user. Educators could discuss the positive and negative impacts of the internet to further encourage internet users. The US Safer Internet Day website also suggests a screening of the film “LIKE”, which explores the use of social media in our daily lives.
Programs for Parents and the Community
Internet safety doesn’t stop at the school door. In fact, home networks and computers often don’t have the same level of protection that schools provide through content filters. This makes it easier for children and teens to encounter inappropriate material, such as pornography, at home. Also, many children and teens have laptops or smart devices of their own that they use in private. This lack of supervision makes children more vulnerable to cyberbullying and predatory grooming. Therefore, it’s just as important to educate parents and the community as it is to educate students. The Safer Internet Day site offers resources for parents about topics like cyberbullying, TikTok, and even Roblox. Additionally, ConnectSafely provides a series of talks with experts covering the tough subjects affecting children online, from predatory behavior to online dating to the pressure to look filter-perfect.
Adopt Technology to Keep Students Safe
It’s also important for schools to show parents they’re doing all they can to keep their children safe during the school day. Content filters can prevent students from accessing inappropriate websites and materials. But what if, for example, students — or even a student and a teacher — use the drafts folder of a shared email account to communicate? Or a saved Microsoft Word document? By bypassing the internet, students and others may participate in at-risk behavior that goes undetected by filters. That’s why it’s so important to have screen monitoring software to work with your school’s content filter. Whether online or offline, screen monitoring programs like LearnSafe detect at-risk behavior, such as predatory grooming or threats of violence. LearnSafe can also detect mentions of suicide and self-harm, helping vulnerable students get the support that they need.
Text by Claire Manasco