How do schools promote cybersafety? - Education Matters Magazine

How do schools promote cybersafety?


cyber-bullying website

In the following extract from Beyond Cyberbullying – An essential guide to parenting in the digital age Michael Carr-Gregg says that all schools should have a holistic approach to cybersafety.

To be honest, up until the last decade, the education systems in Australia and in many western countries, with a few notable exceptions, have moved with the speed of mammalian evolution on the issues of school bullying and its cyber cousin. For many years the majority view (reminiscent of Tom Brown’s School Days) was that a little bit of schoolyard bullying was fine, probably made young people more resilient, and unless someone was in need of hospital treatment, it really wasn’t the school’s business.

As far as cyberbullying is concerned, the initial view was that if an incident occurred outside the school (most did), then it could not possibly fall under the school’s jurisdiction. With the help of a few high-profile media stories and some legal cases, this view has shifted, and now most schools have an acceptable use policy covering all online communications between students, parents and teachers that impact on the school community.

The official document deployed by the federal government is the National Safe Schools Framework, which is designed to help Australian schools develop effective student safety and wellbeing policies including cyberbullying. While this document promotes some worthy goals – ‘creating learning environments which are free from bullying, harassment, aggression and violence’, for instance – the truth is that there is no monitoring system and funding is not linked to implementation. This means that in some schools the document is still in its cellophane wrapper or, worse, relegated to the recycling bin.

The consensus among cybersafety experts is that all schools should have a holistic approach to the issue and should be able to tick several crucial boxes. If in doubt, it’d be worth asking your child’s school if they’re aware of the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s free and accredited Cybersafety Outreach Professional Development for educators program. Ask if they have done any of the following (as suggested by the ACMA):

1.  Establish a cybersafety team

Create a cybersafety committee with at least one member being a tech head (a.k.a. computer nerd) and others being experts in student welfare, staff management and curriculum development.

2.  Conduct a cybersafety audit

Figure out what the school currently does to support and encourage cybersafe behaviours.

3.  Identify issues

Consult with staff, students and parents to identify key cybersafety issues and determine whether current policies and proceduresadequatelyaddresstheseissues.

4.  Research cybersafety resources

Examine the available school-focused resources. eSmart, an Australian cybersafety and wellbeing initiative, is a good place to start.

5.  Draft and circulate a code of conduct

Draft a cybersafety code of conduct, including clear incident response flow charts, to ensure all staff and relevant parents are aware of how to deal with a breach of the code of conduct. Consult with staff, parents and, where appropriate, students on the draft code. Revise and redraft in line with feedback and consult again if necessary.

6.  Promote and share the code of conduct

Arrange for the code of conduct to be sent home for parents and children to read and sign together.

7.  Appoint a cybersafety contact person

Organise someone as a first point of contact for students, staff and parents if a cybersafety issue arises. They will be responsible for starting the agreed process for handling the cyberbullying and facilitate communication between the parties involved.

8.  Regularly review the code of conduct

Technology changes fast, so make sure the code of conduct reflects the latest usage.

9.  Integrate cybersafety into curriculum

Use the federal government’s Cybersmart teacher resources, plus any from the state government to integrate cybersafety into the curriculum

10. Educate parents

Provide cybersafety information to parents. (One fabulous idea would be to make this book available to the parent community!) The cybersafety contact person could host an internet safety awareness presentation for parents, directing parents to the following sites:

Cybersmart: Developed by the ACMA, Cybersmart provides activities, resources and practical advice to help kids, teens, teachers and parents safely enjoy the online world.

Bullying No Way: Bullying No Way is a free online resource that aims to create learning environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected and valued, and free from bullying, violence, harassment and discrimination.

Cybersafety Help Button: The Cybersafety Help Button is a new Australian government initiative designed to keep children and families safe online. It is a free web-based application giving young people the ability to talk about, report or learn about cybersafety issues by clicking on the button.

eSmart: Following a successful pilot (involving 164 government and non-government schools in urban, rural and remote regions around Australia), this cybersafety program (developed with the assistance of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation) is now being rolled out nationwide.


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