Digital safety is too important for your school to leave to one day a year.
Safer Internet Day (SID) – Tuesday 5th February 2019 – is an annual worldwide event that goes a long way in raising awareness for Internet safety and education. But schools can't afford to leave it to just one day a year.
The Internet, as anyone who has gone online could tell you, is equal parts extraordinary and frightening. At the click of a mouse button, we have access to unlimited information, entertainment and communication resources. But this information superhighway is also the tool of choice for organised crime, predators of many stripes and people who seek to do harm on a scale previously unimagined.
Properly managed, the Internet experience is enriching and educational. Taken lightly, the Internet can become an extremely unsafe place in the blink of an eye.
Schools, in particular, can take a number of steps to create an ongoing safe Internet space for their students and the broader school community. This year’s focus for Safer Internet Day is on the 4Rs – Respect, Responsibility, Reasoning and Resilience – essential components for instilling in students the cognitive skills and emotional ‘software’ needed to deal with a modern-day online experience.
By focusing on the way we treat others (Respect); being accountable for the things we say and do, and developing the courage to stand up and call out bad behaviour when we see it (Responsibility); questioning the accuracy and legitimacy of information promoted to us or that we discover in our everyday Internet use (Reasoning); and – as distinct from simply ‘hardening up’ when we have a negative online experience – developing the emotional tools to ‘bounce back’ (Resilience), organisers hope this year’s SID will help deliver a better Internet experience.
For school children, the adoption of these behaviours from the onset will help establish them as good digital citizens, now and throughout their entire adult lives.
But a safer Internet isn’t just about behavioural challenges; it’s about having the security mechanisms in place to ensure your data is fully protected around the clock.
For schools, there’s a lot more at stake than the way we approach interactions and our activity on the web. Our safety focus needs to include students, the wider community and the information and data that we collect and then store.
The reality is: there’s no system that’s unhackable. But there’s a wealth of resources available, as well as some relatively simple and cost-effective steps that schools can take, to minimise the chances of compromising their Internet security.
As EdSmart’s CTO, David Eedle discussed in a recent post, it’s essential that schools run through a due diligence checklist to ensure their digital security makes the grade. His tips can easily be applied to the broader school community to help drive safety online.
It’s important to be aware of where your school’s data is being hosted and by whom. If there’s some kind of security breach – or even the suggestion of a potential breach – you should have already nominated a contact person who’s readily accessible in an emergency. In circumstances where there’s been a possible breach of data security, time is critical, so knowing exactly who to call and ensuring the right action is taken immediately is imperative for minimising the consequences of being hacked.
Following on from hosting, an important element of creating a safer Internet in your school is controlling the data access by people outside of the school community. Who has access to your school’s database and information technology? Beyond that, you need to ensure child protection checks have been completed on those accessing your school data. Have staff members been properly trained in preventing inadvertent data leaks? Has the company hosting your data tackled breaches in the past? If so, when? And what contingencies do they have in place?
If data is ever compromised, encryption makes it harder for those whose data has been stolen to be identified and, consequently, targeted by scammers or used for illegal purposes such as identity theft. Having thorough data encryption is an excellent means for protecting your school community.
As we all think about ensuring a safer Internet as part of SID 2019, take the time to consider the entire spectrum of Internet safety in your school. Behaviours, knowledge and emotional responses around using the Internet are important but it’s essential we stay ahead of the game when it comes to the nuts and bolts of safety.