Students need to feel safe at school in order to learn. Accordingly, most schools work tirelessly to create safe learning environments inside classrooms. But are virtual classrooms also positive places to nurture young learners? Are we doing enough to make sure online environments keep our children safe?
Increasingly, schools strive to incorporate technology in the classroom. This most often involves individual computer use. Some schools supply students with laptops. According to Edweek’s Market Brief, by 2016, faculty and students in 54% of schools had access to computers purchased by schools. Other schools have implemented BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. This means that it’s increasingly important for schools to monitor online spaces on campus.
Students may be more exposed to cyberbullying than traditional bullying at school. Also, this kind of bullying doesn’t stop when students go home for the day. Instead of having just a bully at school, students can now carry their bully in their pocket. It is therefore imperative that schools teach digital citizenship.
In the classroom, students often build a sense of community when working in groups or pairs. Teachers can replicate this by having students work together online. This creates a sense of community often lacking online because students work as a team. In this way, students learn to see the online world as an extension of the classroom. This idea extends to what they say online. In other words, they’ll connect cyberbullying and traditional bullying. Thus, students learn that what they say online affects others just as much as what they say aloud.
When students use their own devices at school, they open the classroom door to the possibility of online bullies and predators. Therefore, it is not just important but essential to educate students on digital safety before BYOD begins. By establishing limits in the classroom and approaching transgressions as teachable moments, students don’t just learn to use the internet. Moreso, they learn to use the internet responsibility. Creating and ensuring a safe online space will enhance their learning and their skills. Perhaps most importantly, graduates are better prepared for the online environment at college and beyond.
Ensuring our students’ safety online must be an ongoing task. As technology changes, so do the challenges and dangers posed by technology. Therefore, it’s essential that administrators and parents continually stay informed about the threats children and teens face online. Keeping a positive, open line of communication between students, teachers, parents, and administrators helps children avoid potential dangers. Moreover, it can stop inappropriate online behavior before it begins.
Schools should also embrace technology that makes sure school computers are safe and secure. Content filters can keep students away from some inappropriate sites. Furthermore, computer word and phrase monitoring can catch inappropriate, dangerous and harmful activity on campus. This helps schools intervene to help their most vulnerable students. When students feel safe and secure in school and online, their capacity to learn soars.
Text by Taylor Stewart