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Safer Online Learning for Students and Families

With most schools engaged in what is likely to be the largest distance-learning exercise in US history, schools, students, and families are now faced with additional challenges in managing their students’ online safety. Don’t feel overwhelmed! The KTG Safe Schools program has provided the following tips to help you safely navigate the online learning environment.

Patience is a virtueFirst and foremost, realize that this is a challenging exercise for everyone involved, from educators to families. Online formats may be unfamiliar and new technologies may present previously unconsidered challenges. Exercise patience and encourage the same from your child as everyone explores the use of employing best practices in distance-learning education.

When possible, stay involved and stay in-sightAllow for a space where your child can effectively learn but where you can stay engaged as needed. Educators and school districts are firmly committed to protecting your child’s safety; however, you should also be available to address comments, concerns, or images your child may be unexpectedly exposed to.  Additionally, providing support, patience, and demonstrating availability can help your child navigate the process of online learning.

Keep personal information privateThe Center for Cyber Safety and Education notes that in the internet behavior of 4th- to 8th-grade children in the United States, more than 40% engaged in conversations online with a stranger. Of these children, 53% revealed their private phone numbers and 6% revealed their home addresses.  While online learning environments are generally safe, there have been a number of reported cases of unauthorized access to them. Make sure your students understand the importance of trusted and private information. Encourage them not to share information like full names, phone numbers, or addresses either online or in the virtual classroom. 

Limit external visibilityMost conventional meeting tools or applications allow viewers to share camera or photo input.  While many tools allow users to hide or control their sharing of this data, some do not.  When possible, ensure that camera footage is not shown unless required through your application software settings. When a camera isn’t needed, turn it off or cover the camera’s lens. Additionally, consider the use of a non-specific icon or username to represent your students.  These will help to limit visual access or clues about your students’ homes or environments.

Take the time to talkMaintain open dialogue with your children about online safety.  Let them know that they can approach you if they ever have questions or concerns about behaviors or problems they may encounter online or with their devices. While maintaining an internet connection is important for online learning, it’s your connection to your students that matters most!