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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Keeping Students Safe Online

This is the first time in my career where I've had to lead a full court press with parents to keep their students safe online. And in this instance, it really does take a village, as parents can't do this alone.

Many tips can be found online for parents to help keep their students safe outside of school. Specific passwords should be set by parents and not changed by students for online websites, email accounts, and more. Many restrictions can be put in place via browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer. A quick Google search can walk even the most tech-adverse parent through the steps.

Parents should put their feet down, literally and figuratively, on screen time at home. Teaching students how to protect themselves through tips on sites such as Common Sense Media is important, and parents must reinforce these messages at home. Understanding one's digital footprint can't begin too soon, although it might be good to start around age 10. YouTube has fantastic videos on protecting one's digital footprint (and I've included one of my favorites below).

The U.S. Attorney General's Office contend that less than 10% of internet harassment is reported. Parents must talk to their students about online safety with regards to strangers. Yes, strangers. That 11 year old in another state could very well be a sexual predator, and keeping open the lines of communication are critical so students know that they can come to you when they have problems. Students should be reminded never to use their real names, not share personal information like school and home address, and never interact with individuals who they do not personally know.

What will be most surprising to parents is that students as young as 9 or 10 years of age are savvy enough to know how to create email accounts that parents don't know about. They can create anonymous email accounts and cyberstalk others. They can send scantly clad or naked pictures, or even worse, receive and then open them, thereby committing crimes by becoming parties to child pornography.

This generation is smart. Very smart. And the more parents can work with school staff to keep students safe, the better!

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