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8 Ways to Protect Your Students Online Today

8 Ways to Protect Your Students Online Today

The pandemic continues to run its course globally, which means that online learning and remote work are still at all-time highs. The new normal is actually not that new anymore and, in truth, feels anything but normal. While Covid-19 has kept us indoors, where we can keep our bodies healthy, another “virus” has followed us: it lingers around our phones, laptops, and desktops waiting to violate our online privacy and disrupt our lives. According to one study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, problematic internet usage has risen to a rate of one-third during Covid-19. This stuff matters.

So, what is the fix? While there is no tried and tested playbook when it comes to the wide world of the web, it is important to understand the risks and what to look out for. We can start with saying “stay safe” – but, stay safe from what? What does that look like if you are in education or mental health fields? It can mean anything from identity theft to inappropriate content (Zoom Bombings) to predators, cyberbullying, stalking and stolen information (banking).

Tech was made for good, but is now always being used that way. We have to learn how to prevent, protect and respond.

Here are 8 things to remember when keeping yourself, students and peers:

  1. Teach students about privacy. It is important to discuss the value of protecting your identity with your students. Private parts: no one has the right to touch or take their ideas, thoughts, and pictures or know their favorite things or friends.

  2. Teach students “privacy hygiene." This is a set of steps that you do each day (like brushing your teeth before bed) that will keep you ahead of hackers. Your school and community will need it for the rest of their lives.

  3. It is important to teach your students the importance of NOT sharing school links to outside parties eg. Class zoom links and interactive classrooms that are assigned to their specific classes.

  4. Show your students that their technology needs to learn some manners. Teach your apps like you would teach other people. Create a schedule for their screen time. Set boundaries for how and where they use their device. Learn the features that allow you to truly unplug. Set some basic house rules for phones, “the announced guest” in your classroom today.

  5. Let your student know that even though it may seem right, those ads are not for them. Limit the ads. You are in control of the ads that you see, and this power matters. Use privacy apps (like PRIV the App) and tell your phone what it can and cannot show your students. This means that you are pushing back against the ad saturation and misinformation trends that have become so common and lead to youth mental health breakdown.

  6. Teach permission. Read between the lines, reviewing privacy and security settings carefully. Instead of going with the default settings, decide which accounts and social media apps will be able to access each function. Consider the consequences of each setting.

  7. Do not become a product of big business. They say, "if you are not searching for a product, you turn into one" (The Social Dilemma, Netflix 2020). You turn into a product becoming a data point on a list for corporations to sell or share. How does that feel? A little violated huh…

  8. Learn more. It is worth looking for online community education and apps that will advocate for those most vulnerable. The goal is to spread this awareness like wildfire and spark what will be a shift in internet and mobile phone usage. Share with your other colleagues, share with your student families. We are building the future we want to see, using technology for what we need, without letting it use us!

As with any new idea or movement, all of this will take time. The more we can raise awareness, though, the more we can support and offer resources for equitable solutions. We are trying to take care of our most vulnerable. Learn more here – and discover what the Social Dilemma Survival Kit can do for you!

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