10 ways K-12 administrators, IT teams, and teachers can support internet safety

Five ways administrators and IT teams can create safer internet frameworks for schools and five ways teachers can help achieve safer internet practices in the classroom

Celebrated at the beginning of February each year, Safer Internet Day is a global movement that calls on everyone from young people to parents, educators, policymakers, and organizations to work together to make the internet a safer and better place for all. 

As schools continually incorporate digital devices and technology, internet safety becomes a more pressing focus for educators. In a report regarding the high cost of phishing by Managed Methods, digital dangers like ransomware attacks continue to affect the K-12 education sector in high volumes, while phishing attacks cost U.S. school districts a median of $2 million. However, not all threats are external. In fact, according to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, cyberbullying is one of the major issues 85% of U.S. educators worry about, and 88% of schools are also concerned about mental health, self-harm, and suicide among students. 

Creating safer internet experiences in school is not only about protecting students by using security tools like web filtering, but it is also about teaching students how to practice good digital citizenship and safety skills. Here are five ways administrators and IT teams can create safer internet frameworks for schools as well as five ways teachers can help achieve safer internet practices in the classroom. 

Five ways school admins and IT can support digital safety 

Everyone who works in the education space has a role to play in keeping their school or district’s students, networks, and devices safe. For administrators and IT personnel, a balanced approach of software and skill building works best.  

  1. Bring in an expert for digital citizenship training 

In addition to the digital citizenship training students are getting in class, it is worthwhile to conduct a school-wide assembly on the topic. Bring in an expert from the cybersecurity field or someone from the district IT team to present to students on the basics of avoiding phishing scams, protecting devices and data, and how to take care of their devices.  

Repeat this training on a yearly basis to ensure students are up to date on the latest threats and best practices for avoiding them. Students can also be asked to sign a digital safety pledge that covers rules of online engagement.  

  1. Develop or update your intervention plan 

Students are as subject to mental health challenges as anyone, and the added stressor of negative digital interactions can be difficult for them to manage. However, schools can use software that helps identify cyberbullying, discussions about self-harm, and other warnings of mental health concerns so teachers and parents can intervene. 

Incorporating keystroke alerts and other tools can flag concerning behavior, but it is also important to update intervention strategies to have a clear plan in place for addressing the behavior with students and their parents. To support these strategies, it’s beneficial to provide proactive mental health coaching and information to the entire student body to facilitate an environment of openness and acceptance. 

  1. Move to the cloud 

Now that districts are incorporating distance learning into their toolset, it’s important to add a cloud-based web filter to protect students and devices when they’re learning from home. Cloud-based filters have the added benefit of easier management and more frequent updates. 

Ideally, find a filter that incorporates artificial intelligence to ensure it’s capturing not only the latest known malware and exploits but also zero-day threats that other filters might miss. Having reliable security software in place will make administration much easier. 

  1. Revisit access policies 

After using the same security software for a while, it is smart to revisit web access settings and policies to ensure they still make sense for the district. Talk with teachers to find out whether they are finding the current settings too restrictive or not restrictive enough. Additionally, set time and calendar-based rights to grant web access during certain days or hours as a way of increasing productivity and reducing bandwidth usage during school hours. 

If not already doing so, set a regularly recurring appointment to remove authorizations for people who are no longer with the district and double check the whitelist and blacklist settings for the web filter. 

  1. Share resources with parents 

Parents  are an invaluable resource in helping to foster good digital citizenship. But they may need education on common threats and best practices for their students as well.  

The Safer Internet Day site has a wealth of resources for parents and educators in a variety of languages. Consider including a safety tip or resource in a monthly email to parents, or work with teachers to put together an FAQ that gets parents up to speed on the basics of digital safety and citizenship. Google’s Be Internet Awesome site also offers a one-page pledge that parents can talk through with their kids and sign as a family. 

Five ways teachers can teach internet safety 

Internet safety is not only a skill set that will serve students well in school, but it will also impact their future careers. As more jobs become digital and remote, workers need to have a basic understanding of how to protect company data and their devices — and how to engage with people courteously online. In fact, learning digital citizenship is becoming just as important as any other subject. 

  1. Study and practice the “dos” of digital citizenship.  

Devoting class time to studying and practicing the “dos” of digital citizenship is important because not all of the rules are intuitive, especially for kids and teens. There are nine elements of digital citizenship: access, commerce, communication, etiquette, health and wellness, laws, literacy, rights and responsibilities, and security.  

The first step for teachers is to have a firm understanding of each of these elements and build lessons that cater to them or incorporate them into other digital lessons. Throughout the year, student progress can be measured based on five key competencies: inclusivity, being informed, engagement, balance, and alertness. Read more about each of the nine elements and five key competencies in this blog from our partner, LanSchool. 

  1. Make netiquette a group activity 

One element of digital citizenship that deserves special attention is netiquette, the rules or etiquette of courteous online engagement. These rules cover everything from protecting personal information and handling negativity to informing people when signing off.  

Learning netiquette is a great group activity because students can discuss and practice together. For example, you can assign each group a different task related to these eight keys of netiquette, such as coming up with examples, rephrasing each practice in their own words, making up an acronym that includes all eight keys, or writing a short skit based on what they have learned.  

There are also free online lessons you can leverage such as this one from Website Builders

  1. Let kids explore how to “Be Internet Awesome” 

Google has developed a microsite full of games and curricula related to digital safety called Be Internet Awesome. This includes a free 139-page curriculum for teachers, four free online games that teach key lessons of digital safety in a hands-on way, and a pledge for parents who want to drive the online safety conversation at home. 

Start by downloading the curriculum and selecting specific activities or leverage it in its entirety to guide digital citizenship lessons throughout the year. Playing Interland, the game series, is also a great activity for students who finish their work early or need an energy and engagement boost.  

  1. Tie digital safety to eSports 

With older kids, it can be useful to tie digital safety to something they care about, such as eSports. Lenovo offers an informative, seven-part video series hosted by gamer and Lenovo “Epprentice” @sassqueenamy.  

Not only does she teach kids the skills they need to be successful in gaming, she shares tips for staying safe and healthy while gaming, such as avoiding strangers, making smart decisions on in-game purchases, and maintaining wellbeing as a gamer. Assign these videos as required watching and then discuss the implications of her recommendations as a class. 

  1. Teach kids about source credibility 

As misinformation runs rampant, it is more important than ever that students learn how to identify credible sources. Education World offers this Ultimate Guide to Teaching Source Credibility, which highlights activities and topics to cover with students to help them root out fake news and misleading information. 

Finding and referencing credible sources is a skill students can exercise on an ongoing basis as they research and present their work. Teachers can set a good example by always using credible sources and crediting them in presentations. 

Looking for a better web filter? Try Lenovo NetFilter

Lenovo NetFilter uses advanced artificial intelligence to keep students safer, both in the classroom and while learning from home. Contact us to learn more and get started. 


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