February 11th is Safer Internet Day, an event recognised in 150 countries throughout the world in order to raise awareness of smarter, safer internet use. We all know that the internet offers tremendous tools for learning, communicating, collaborating and generally expanding our access to the world at large, and it’s important to celebrate that. But we must also acknowledge the risks that come with such a powerful tool. The theme for Safer Internet Day 2020 is ‘Together for a Safer Internet’, so we wanted to offer a few tips to help achieve this goal in school communities.
Always keep your passwords and account information to yourself. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how common it is for people to share login details innocently and find their accounts compromised months later. Some reasons we’ve heard recounted include allowing students to use their teachers laptop, or sharing passwords so students could log in to YouTube. In fact, both of these are surprisingly common and almost never end well.
To provide an additional layer of security it’s often possible to enable two-factor/multi-factor authentication (2FA) as a ‘double-check’. Think of it like withdrawing cash from an ATM: you need both your card and your PIN for your bank to process the transaction. One without the other is not sufficient proof of your identity. 2FA is a digital version of this process.
Many young people now grow up using technology. How often have you seen parents having a meal at a restaurant while their children play on iPhones or iPads? The new normal is being online - if not all the time, then quite a lot of it. Ensuring your students are aware of how to stay safe behind the screen is vital, but it’s not just limited to ‘tech’ things: encouraging nice behaviour is something that might not seem necessarily related to a safer internet, but is important in stemming the spread of cyberbullying.
Similarly, it’s very important that students know who they can speak to in your school community if they need to report something that threatens their safety online. Students should not be left feeling lost if they find themselves in danger online - they should know exactly who they should go to.
This Safer Internet Day, the eSafety Commissioner, the Australian body that encourages safer internet use, is encouraging everybody to tame the technology by being more aware of the parental controls they can set on devices including phones, the home computer, gaming consoles and smart TVs. You can check out their great recommendations over here. Just as it’s necessary to ensure your students know where to go if they don’t feel safe online, parents often need a nudge in the right direction too!