Playing it safe in an online age

Issue: Volume 97, Number 8

Posted: 10 May 2018
Reference #: 1H9ihM

Online safety organisation Netsafe has recently released guidelines for parents to consider when sharing images of their children online. We look into the role of schools and teachers when it comes to students’ online safety.

As they say, better safe than sorry – that’s why keeping students safe online in this digital age is of paramount importance.

Netsafe, an organisation committed to educating people about online safety, recently released five helpful tips to consider before ‘sharenting’, a term used to describe parents sharing images or videos of their children online.

While this particular resource is aimed at parents, schools and teachers also have a responsibility to help keep their students safe online.

Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker says the organisation created the guidelines after receiving queries from parents for advice about information and images shared by other parents or schools. While schools are already familiar with the idea of student safety, it is helpful to have some key considerations to refer back to.

“We know that as a general rule people do struggle with finding the right balance. There’s quite a bit of variation in terms of what people think is okay. A parent can make those decisions for themselves, deciding what information or images to share but it can be difficult for a school that needs to take into account the views of many parents,” he says.

“We also know schools struggle to balance their educational objectives and a need to provide authentic opportunities for student learning whilst managing the privacy and long-term digital footprint of those students.

“It is important for schools to actively promote concepts of digital citizenship and online safety throughout the education programme. It’s not something that we recommend schools do separately. Rather than teach online safety separately, we encourage them to find ways to embed online safety into the curriculum more generally.”

One example of this could be where students are set some online research for any given subject, Martin says.

“That would be a great opportunity to talk to them about media literacy and the accuracy of the information that they’ll come across. Try to build in those online safety learnings, but constantly be delivering them and reinforcing them as part of a broader education programme.”

Martin believes best practice occurs when schools, teachers, parents and others in the school community all work collaboratively to ensure the safety of young people online.

“Ultimately, if the school and the parent community are coordinated and operating together, then young people receive reinforced messages everywhere they go. That would be ideal. Parent and teacher clearly have two different roles in a child’s life, but they should basically be telling the students the same things and reinforcing the same behaviours,” he says.

“The most important thing really is to consider what sort of long term impact on the young person of having those images shared. By and large, the school is sharing positive images of students so they’re not typically going to present a negative digital image for the student. At the same time, providing lots of personal information about students to go with their images puts them at slightly increased risk.”

By being conscious about online safety and digital footprints, schools and teachers can set a good example for their students, Martin says.

“Young people, the kids who are in school today, they are going to grow up and they are going to be the ones that define what sort of a digital society we live in. It’s important for them to be skilled in safety but also for them to have that attitude and approach to managing their online environment in a way that’ll make the internet and digital society a better place. It’s a critical aspect of young people’s education.”

For more information about online safety(external link).

Netsafe’s five tips for sharing images of students safely

1. Look ahead

Take some time to think about the digital footprint you are creating by posting images or other content about students online. Think about how your students might feel about the content you’re sharing once they’re older and how it may affect their future.

2. Ask for permission

Does the photo you’re about to post include other people’s children? Ask their parents for permission before you post a photo online. If your students are old enough, consider asking them if they’re okay for you to share it before you post a photo as well. Asking them for permission before you post is a great way to teach them about respect and consent online.

3. Check your privacy settings

If you’re thinking about sharing a photo of students on social media, it’s important that you first check what privacy settings you have set up. Some social media networks default to public or more open privacy settings when you sign up so make sure what you’re posting can only be seen by the people you’d like to see it.

4. Think about who you’ve got in your friends network

Make sure you are happy with everyone in your school’s social media network seeing the photo – if you’re not sure or if you’d prefer to share it only with a smaller group consider setting up a private school network group.

5. Is there any personal information in the picture?

Before you hit ‘post’, have another close look at the photo to make sure you’re not revealing any personal information about your students. Some things to look out for include the student’s road or house number or any other personal or private information.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:10 pm, 10 May 2018

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