Protecting Students with a Cybersafety Plan

A vast majority of teens are online on a daily basis with most of them using their mobile phones or tablets to access the Internet. Combine this with schools pushing out one-to-one initiatives at a rapid pace. It is no wonder cyberbullying and sexting are most often done through mobile technology with this amount of mobile technology in the hands of teens. While most cybersafety incidents happen outside of school, they often start in school. This means school districts and their schools need to create cybersafety programs to counter these threats to the learning process. 

For a cybersafety program to be effective a school districts must:

  • Survey students yearly using an instrument such as Hinduja & Patchin's Cyberbullying &Online Aggression Survey (2009). 
  • Select programs for individual schools based on data from the cybersafety surveys and input from the students it is supposed to help.
  • Provide professional development for faculty and staff on implementing cybersafety education programs.
  • Adequate budgeting for cybersafety programs.
  • Provide necessary materials to schools.
  • Provide instruction to parents on research-based methods on keeping their children safe online.
  • Appoint a cybersafety coordinator to assist schools with developing cybersafety education programs, develop appropriate consequences for cybersafety violations, train staff involved in cybersafety programs, research the latest trends in cybersafety issues, works with parents, law enforcement, and the media on cybersafety issues.

Schools should do the following for cybersafety effectiveness:

  • Insert cybersafety instruction into the most appropriate courses all students are mandated to participate in. Not all students may take technology courses every year.
  • Create a school cybersafety response team consisting of an administrator and guidance counselor specially trained to handle cybersafety incidents.
  • Ensure all faculty and staff understand how to handle cybersafety incidents and properly report them to the cybersafety response team.
  • Provide an annual presentation to parents and the community on cybersafety concerns based on survey data, explain the dangers of cybersafety violations, explain school cybersafety initiatives, and explain what can be done to promote cybersafety in the home.

If school districts and schools fail to develop comprehensive cybersafety plans they run the risk of having the education process disrupted due to fallout from cybersafety incidents. These incidents could also expose school districts and schools to legal accountability if the school does not adequately respond to cybersafety incidents. Finally, schools may lose E-Rate discounts if they do not provide cybersafety education stipulated in the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2012.

For more information on this plan to protect students from cybersafety incidents click the link below: 

 Comprehensive District Cybersafety Plan


Social Chaos

The first five days of class have come and gone and I am already behind the schedule I created for myself. Thankfully, I was able to give the students their network accounts so I would not have to log 30 computers in everyday. The next task was to setup the students with their Edmodo accounts. Once this was accomplished chaos ensued. All kinds of personal messages started flying all over the site. One student complained he could not send his friend a message after being told students could not send messages to other individual students. When one student did the 21st Century version of dipping a girl's pigtails into an inkwell by calling her names on the site I knew something had to be done.

I quickly imposed a no personal message rule. Edmodo is to only be used for class business only. The reason I gave was I wanted students to learn to think about what they were about to post and whether it would get them into trouble. Some students thought I was joking and kept posting. This started the rounds of parent phone calls that went out after school for a couple of days. The way students acted online got me to thinking about how those who are allowed to have a Facebook or other social network account have been behaving online until now. For some students this was their introduction to social networking. I have concluded teachers need to engage students in a social network such as Edmodo to help teach students to look at whether to post what is on the screen. 

While this idea of students and teachers networking might frighten some and run counter to what I have said in the past. However, students need to learn how to act in a closed environment that sites like Edmodo or Schoology can provide. The good news is almost all of my students love using Edmodo. What are your thoughts? Have I gone overboard about the messages or should I continue to keep the messages out of our site? Should it be up to schools to train students how to act on social networks? I would be interested to hear what you have to say.

Adults Behaving Badly

Those who know me know that I am passionate about cybersafety, especially cyberbullying. I have gone all over the state of South Carolina discussing the topic to various groups of people. Usually the focus is on educating children on how to use the Internet and it's tools properly. With adults, it is protecting your identity and becareful of what gets posted about themselves. Never would I think I would have to have to children discussion with adults, especially administrators who should know better. WRONG! I guess I have to give the whole talk to all audiences. Administrators needs to start paying attention to what they are doing and get educated. One of your numbers may be going to jail!

What happened in Pennsylvania's the Lower Marion School District should be a wake-up call to those who pay lip-service to cybersafety. The fact this case even happened was downright frightening on several levels. First, why would someone create a security software that would activate a webcam remotely? Second, why would a school district place itself in potential harm by purchasing such software? Third, when instruction was given to administrators did anyone think to explain when the webcam should be activated and when it should not? Fourth, what was the vice-principal thinking when he or she operated the webcam? Fifth, what was the vice-principal thinking when attempting to discipline a student at home? Conspiracy theorists such as Adam Curry of No Agenda are probably going crazy talking about "big brother" spying on everybody.

The whole thing in Pennsylvania probably boils down to an over-zealous administrator doing what he or she thought was the right thing out of ignorance of the consequences. Not an excuse but probable. However, there was a public incident of cyberbullying by a group of people who should have known better. On Episode 238 (March 7, 2010) of the popular podcast, This Week in Tech (TWiT), host Leo Laporte and guests John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine and Meveo fame, Kevin Rose of Digg, and Clayton Morris of Fox and Friends decided to replicate a stunt done by Connan O'Brien and get the audience to follow a randomly chosen person on Twitter. Kevin Rose did a search and found someone based on the search of the term "hates technology." They settled on a New Zealand woman who tweeted "I hate technology." By the end of the show over 4,000 people where following her and the current count is over 24,000 followers. Laporte kept asking if what they were doing was illegal or unethical. Dvorak thought it was at least unethical but did nothing to stop it. Kevin Rose was cheering people on and Clayton Morris did nothing. Fortunately, the victim has a great sense of humor and is trying to cash in on this fifteen minutes of fame. Laporte promised to buy her a iPad for her troubles but also promised the same to a randomly chosen new follower to get the number up.

Can you imagine the shock and horror someone might have to open their e-mail and discover over 4,000 notices of new Twitter followers? All of these people who are strangers and you have no idea why they are filling up your e-mail box? Then you find out it is by a group of people who were doing it as a stunt on a podcast. All four should know better. There are many teenagers who follow TWiT every week and look up to the host and guests as role models. Clayton Morris should never be assigned any story involving incidents such as Web Cam Spying story or a cyberbullying incident resulting in a tragic death. I will still listen to TWiT but I have to say I am very disappointed in the actions of these leaders in the Tech World.