How to keep students safe online

Issue: Volume 98, Number 3

Posted: 25 February 2019
Reference #: 1H9rS8

While teachers do not need to be an expert on social media, being familiar with the technology that young people are using and the challenges they may experience can provide insight and prepare teachers to give students guidance when needed.

Five tips for teachers to keep students safe on social media

1. Staying engaged

Talk to young people about their lives on social media. Much like the questions we ask when they return to school after the holidays, for example, where they went and what they did, we need to be talking to young people about their online experiences in the same way. Where do they go online? Who do they hang out with? What apps do they use? What do they enjoy doing and why? 

The greatest source of information about what young people are doing online comes from the young people themselves. Asking open-ended questions, listening carefully and avoiding judgement lets young people know that we are engaged and interested and could be the right person to talk to should things go wrong.

2. Being social media savvy

You don’t have to be on social media yourself to be able to support young people as they navigate the space, but they will be more receptive to your advice and guidance if you are. Feedback from young people has identified they are less likely to engage or listen to advice from a teacher or parent around safety online if they are not using the space themselves. Keep up with the platforms and apps young people are using – a good way to do this is to get the students to teach you!

3. Discussing online safety in the classroom

Provide meaningful opportunities for young people to develop the attitudes, values, knowledge and skills they need to make safe and informed choices online. Online safety can be integrated into the all areas of the classroom curriculum by discussing it regularly and authentically. Young people do not use digital technology and devices in silos and so we need to make sure that they do not develop online safety skills and digital citizenship in isolation.

Digital devices are used throughout the school and across the curriculum so that is when the learning about online safety and being a responsible digital citizen has to happen too.

4. Talking about the importance of privacy protection

Talk to students about the consequences of sharing their personal details on social media and which information to always protect online, including:

  • login details and passwords
  • bank account details
  • home address
  • phone numbers
  • birthdate
  • personal information that could be used to guess security questions for online accounts.

5. Helping students make a plan for what to do if things go wrong

No matter how careful or prepared a young person is, chances are that they will encounter challenges at one time or another on social media. Helping them to make sure they know what to do and what their options are is important. 

Challenges can be emotionally charged and so having a plan in place is crucial. Do they have a trusted person they can speak to? Are they aware of external agencies and how to connect with them? Are they aware of the self-help tools available?

Safety resources available

Although young people are often digitally savvy, they’re still developing. They may need guidance on appropriate online behaviours and how to navigate challenges.

Instagram and Netsafe recently released A Parent’s Guide to Instagram: New Zealand Edition 2019. While parents and teachers have different roles in keeping young people safe online, teachers can help deliver a cohesive message by having conversations with students about social media.

Online safety resources for educators are available at link) and general online safety advice is available from link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:12 am, 25 February 2019

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