Safer Internet Day 2016: Protecting students online

The problem of safeguarding children’s Internet use is double-edged: teachers can’t always know how children are behaving online, and children don’t always know when this behaviour puts them risk.

Unfortunately, just as the Internet has facilitated learning, it has also brought a degree of danger. Bullying, grooming, and other potential dangers have received an update for the modern age. The predator in the van that every kid avoids now masquerades as a friendly, clean-cut stranger on IM.

Restricting access only works on a site by site basis – and even then, not that well. Modern schoolchildren are digital natives, and fairly crafty about this sort of thing: proxies and mirrors make it easy to evade any barriers teachers might place in their way.

Instead, schools should do what they do best: educate. Technology can help with this: monitoring software can alert members of staff whenever “red flag” phrases are used on the institution’s network, and can highlight when these individual instances of troubling behaviour form a larger trend. But it’s not a magic potion: good teachers will use this information to explain why certain behaviours are unsafe – and take pre-emptive action to prevent further dangerous usage.

Staff should teach students how to protect their login details, how to browse responsibly, and more: if they wouldn’t show what they’re looking at to a family member, they shouldn’t be looking at it full stop.

Developing minds are far more receptive to a proactive, didactic approach than they are to arbitrary restrictions. People ignore “STAY OFF THE GRASS” signs for a reason; “Here’s why you shouldn’t do this” is always more effective than “you can’t do this at all.”

Sam Pemberton, CEO of Impero Software

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Goodluz