How to keep student's safe online
Teacher Tips

How to keep students safe online

The internet, the World Wide Web or simply the Net – however, you like to think of it, it’s now a central and potentially irreversible part of our lives. Particularly in education. In the US classroom, only 42% of assignments are now done using pen and paper and 73% of teachers say their students use devices in class daily (according to a survey by MidAmerica Nazarene University). 

But this powerful tool is not risk-free. So how can you ensure your students are safe in the online environment? Here are some of our top tips to help protect your students and promote cybersecurity in your classroom:



Teach yourself

Number one, make sure you have the knowledge! Implementing and educating your students on robust data security practice requires you to lead the way. This may mean you need to brush up a bit on your own understanding, as well as keep abreast of the latest trends and new tools out there. Learning about what hackers are looking for and how you can protect yourself will help to establish safe tech habits, which will inform your advice to students. 

To get started, make use of the many excellent resources available to get up to speed. Common Sense Education and ISTE are particularly good places to start your research. Equally chatting with your IT staff or introducing data privacy as a topic in PD sessions can add important information to your cannon. 


Embrace Digital Citizenship in your classroom

Digital citizenship is a brilliant way to hand your students all the tools they need to operate as safe and respectful members of the online community. It advocates the idea that you can’t keep students safe by simply removing access to digital tools. Instead, as with many difficult and important life lessons, we should provide guidance, information, and resources to help students make their own responsible and ethical decisions. 

Digital Citizenship doesn’t have to be taught as a stand-alone subject. In fact, it can take on more relevance and make more sense when applied to a variety of classroom activities. For example, in research-based assignments explain the importance of using authoritative sources and how to distinguish them. In schools with access to student devices, incorporating a wide range of educational apps can help to improve digital literacy and provide regular opportunities to explain the importance of security practices and data protection.

You can check out more about what Digital Citizenship is and how to implement it here: 



Don’t go too heavy on the rules

Reading about cybersecurity is not for the faint-hearted. There are some truly terrifying stats about hacker presence and what can be lost to in a data breach. With these sorts of consequences, it can be tempting to go in heavy and remove any possible way that your students could fall foul of online risks. 

But while this sort of protection maybe with the best intentions, it’s pretty ineffective and leaves students lacking in vital practical tech knowledge. Wrapping students in cotton wool not only reduces their exposure to technology (expertise they will need to succeed in further education and future careers) it also fails to provide them with the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions. Furthermore, the tighter your no-budge rules are, the more inclined students will be to break them. Particularly if they don’t understand why they exist in the first place.  

Just to clarify here, we are not suggesting a total absence of tech rules, but instead, try not to block useful tools or fun activities when the actual risk is small. Also, consider how the rules you put in place could be coupled with education on why they are important and the potential consequences of abusing them. Which brings us to our next point…


Establish clear expectations

Creating a clear set of expectations or policies around responsible internet use is an essential first step to keeping everyone safe online. These expectations should detail basic security protocols like creating clear passwords and logging out of accounts before shutting down a device. It is also a good opportunity to build-in behavior expectations such as not touching other people’s screens or sharing hurtful or inappropriate content. 

A great way to get engagement around this document is to facilitate discussion around each of the points, first establishing why each action is important. At the end of the discussion, you can get everyone in your class to sign the document to demonstrate their commitment to being safe online. 




Don’t forget physical security

Robust cyber defenses are all well and good, but if your hardware is stolen, sensitive data is very vulnerable to physical hacking. 

If you store any devices in your classroom make sure they are securely locked away out of sight. Also if you are entrusted with any access keys to areas where hardware, servers, etc are stored, make sure you keep your keys safe and don’t lend them out. 


Be cautious about the apps you choose

If you are thinking of introducing a new app, chrome extension or another form of software to your lesson, make sure you have thoroughly investigated it’s privacy standards before anyone downloads it. A good rule of thumb is to ensure the software’s privacy policy is at least as stringent as your school’s own standards. 

Common Sense Education is a great place to check out how educational tech ranks in terms of privacy. Checking adherence to COPPA and the Student Privacy Pledge also provide a good standard to measure how safe apps are.



Get parents involved

There really is no better way to ground your students in the basics of cybersecurity than getting parents on board. They too may want some education on how to keep their kids safe online, and may even be unaware of the risks. You could do this by sending them resources or mentioning it at school events and talks. Raising awareness at home helps to spread the message and reinforces the lessons learned in school.


Digital and online safety is an essential part of modern education. To learn more about all things EdTech, check out our blog.

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