5 Ways Schools Can Keep Students Safer Online

February 5, 2019 Titania Jordan

Today is Safer Internet Day, and the campaign's slogan, "Together for a better internet," is a call to action for our community to join together to create a better and safer internet for everyone—especially younger users.

Schools play a pivotal role in keeping kids safer online. Because they provide access to technology like email accounts and computers, they have a duty to teach the importance of good digital citizenship.

The internet is a big place, though, and keeping kids safer there can be daunting. In this blog post, we’ve outlined some immediate, concrete ideas that schools can implement to help keep students safer online.

1. Understand the connection between school shootings and social media.

School shootings are devastating, and schools, parents, and law enforcement need to work collaboratively to create safe learning environments. Bark recently sat down with Dr. Frank Straub, Director of the Center for Mass Violence Response Studies at the Police Foundation, to discuss the current state of school safety.

Dr. Straub stated that most of the people who planned or completed an attack told someone before the incident and/or discussed the attack on social media. Because of this, threat assessment teams should be in place so that school officials and others can work together to identify youth in need of support, mentoring, and services. Also helpful are anonymous reporting systems based on the principles of “see something, say something, do something.”

In a world where more and more student interaction happens online (both at home and school), it’s important to keep an eye out for concerning messages and interactions—especially ones that could indicate violence.

2. Plan an annual technology night with teachers, parents, your IT director, and PTA/PTO leaders.

It’s common for families to incorporate technology contracts when kids get their first phones, but this same sentiment also applies to an educational environment. Schools and parents are partners when it comes to instilling proper digital citizenship in today’s kids.

A technology night is a great way for parents, teachers, and administration to come together and discuss the technology that students will have access to at school, as well as the expectations and responsibilities that come along with it. Has your school hosted a tech night? If not, now might be the time!

Often, parents won’t be familiar with the new technology or be aware of how frequently it should get used. They can also learn about general best practices for keeping kids safer online at home, too.

3. Understand how kids misuse school-issued technology and the ramifications of doing so.

As schools know, kids are incredibly inventive, and they’ve managed to turn Google Docs into a de facto communication and social media hub to get around firewalls. At Bark, we’re all too aware of instances of kids ganging up on other children in Google Docs. This practice is called “siccing,” which occurs when one bully recruits friends to gang up on a victim online. In these situations, the onslaught can be terrifying and near impossible to ignore.

Many students also use Google Docs as a diary—a convenient one that can be pulled up anywhere and anytime, whether on their phone, tablet, school Chromebook, or home desktop. They often pour their hearts into Google Docs, keeping hidden the signs of depression or anxiety they don’t share on social media or in texts and emails. These entries may contain language around self-harm or suicidal ideation.

4. Familiarize yourself with the most popular forms of cyberbullying and communicate that they are all unacceptable.

Cyberbullying is rampant in American schools today. The way it manifests can change with trends and new apps, so it’s important that schools stay on top of what’s happening. While it may just seem like teasing, there are documented reports of kids getting taunted into self-harm and suicide after being cyberbullied.

Anonymous messaging apps are especially popular at the moment. Kids can log in and leave hurtful or abusive comments that are unattached to their real names, email addresses, or phone numbers.

Impersonation is also prevalent. This happens when kids create brand-new Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media profiles pretending to be another child. They then post embarrassing, scandalous, or even illegal activities to try and get the victim in trouble. It’s often made public for the entire school community to see and can have a lasting impact on a student’s reputation.

5.  Monitor student accounts for signs of potential danger.

Restricting access to inappropriate sites on school networks is one of the most important things schools do to ensure online student safety, but there’s more to protecting kids than just blocking websites. Monitoring content on school-issued accounts is integral to student safety.

Bark for Schools monitors G Suite and Office 365 for signs of cyberbullying, suicidal ideation, sexual predators, school shootings, and more. We developed our monitoring service as a response to the tragic Parkland shooting as a way to help schools protect students at no cost to them or their communities.

Now, Bark for Schools is the trusted partner of more than 1,000 school districts—with more joining every month. Our Family Alerts Dashboard allows schools to partner with parents to help protect their kids both at school and at home. Students often use their school-issued accounts when classes aren’t in session—after hours, over the weekend, and during holidays—when a staff member may not be available to respond.

Creating a safer internet for our kids requires a large-scale, coordinated effort—one that brings together parents, schools, law enforcement, and the community. Everyone has a role to play, and schools are integral to keeping America’s students safer.

Visit bark.us/schools to learn more about this no-cost service and sign up today.

About the Author

Titania Jordan

Titania Jordan is the CMO and Chief Parent Officer of Bark.us, an internet safety solution that helps parents and schools keep children safer across social media, text messaging, and email. As the current host of CONNECT with Titania Jordan, and former host of NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA’s weekly television show Atlanta Tech Edge, Titania has the honor of covering the latest in tech news and talent across both the city and the globe.

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