School support for online safety - Education Matters Magazine
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School support for online safety

We have all heard the familiar catch-cry: ‘Why don’t they teach that at school?!’ From sustainability to swimming, hand-washing to healthy eating, educators are tasked with supporting students in all areas of life, not just reading, writing and arithmetic. And while staying safe online has been an important part of education for some time, the emphasis since the spread of COVID-19 adds a new dimension.

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Stepping up skills 

When the world locked down last year, educators stepped up and proved just how flexible and talented they are: meeting the need of changing from classroom teaching to remote learning in a matter of weeks. In moving education online, schools across the country faced significant challenges – including how to transition daily classroom activities while protecting not only students, but also staff and the school community, from online dangers.  

Difficult as it is, COVID-19 clarified just how important it is for schools to have defined strategies to prevent and respond to online harms.

Understanding the skills young people need to protect themselves online is now an everyday consideration for Australian educators. Emerging from these uncertain times what’s clear is that educators need comprehensive support to make informed, and positive, decisions for students and the broader school community. 

eSafety support for education  

eSafety is the world’s first government agency committed to keeping its citizens safer online, and we recognise the importance of understanding what works in online safety education.

To help meet educators’ online safety needs, eSafety was able to provide input to the Australian Curriculum connection on  online safety last year. This resource is a guide for educators to identify content in the Australian Curriculum that supports the teaching and learning of online safety. We have also developed a range of classroom resources that support the curriculum.

 We know that teaching schedules can be hard. That’s why we offer webinars to specifically meet the needs of education staff. These explore the latest online safety research, examine case studies and provide the tools and strategies to help integrate online safety into existing programs and student wellbeing planning.  

In 2020 our professional learning webinar for teachers – Online risks and protective factors – was popular, covering some of the most challenging issues in schools such as cyberbullying, inappropriate content and unwanted contact. To ensure more educators can access this valuable content, we expanded availability, offering more dates in 2021.

Spaces are now available for sessions on: 

  • Monday, 8 March 3:30pm-5:00pm [AEDT] 
  • Thursday, 11 March 7:30pm – 9:00pm [AEDT] 
  • Wednesday, 24 March 3:30pm- 5:00pm [AEDT].

A new 2021 webinar, Online harmful sexual behaviours, misinformation and emerging technology, will commence in April with dates soon to be published on the eSafety website.

eSafety’s Toolkit for Schools offers educators further support. Launched last year, the toolkit helps schools create safer online environments with 35 resources on topics such as guidelines for social media use and tips for responding to incidents that happen outside school hours. The toolkit also includes activities for students to take the lead in online safety and tips for parent-carer education and engagement. In addition, there are tips for supporting staff wellbeing online and for staff using social media. This comprehensive Toolkit was developed with input from teachers and education stakeholders across the country about the online safety challenges to student safety.

Student voice surveys are a new addition to the Toolkit in 2021. These surveys provide educators with students’ perspective when evaluating online safety programs, policies and practices. The three surveys cover students from lower primary (F-Year 3) to secondary (Years 7-12). They can be adapted to suit the needs of students and school communities.   

Online safety virtual classroom

At eSafety we know that by teaching students about risks and benefits online, we can better prepare them to be safer, interact respectfully with others and consider online safety when using digital devices.

This month, eSafety will host a new live virtual classroom to support the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. Designed for students in Years 3-6 this virtual classroom will look at positive up-stander behaviour, supporting friends online and recognising the harm that can be caused by cyberbullying. Registrations are now open. 

Stay up to date 

Staying up to date with emerging, and ever-changing, technologies as well as online safety information and resources is essential for educators in 2021. The eSafety website offers a broad range of content and welcomes new subscribers to regular updates.