The majority of students are familiar with, competent and active users of mobile technology. While it may have its positive uses in the facilitating and sharing of knowledge, it can be an extremely dangerous tool if improperly used. From inappropriate comments to sexting.
So what is a teachers role in keeping students safe online? Websites on desktops, laptops and iPads, by the school, but when it comes to a student’s personal phone….well that’s a different story. Rather than come down heavy on mobile phone usage and viewing it as a problem, below are a number of pointers on what teachers can do to enable students to acknowledge the dangers and identify and set boundaries.
- Peer pressure is often the pervading influence that leads teenagers to overstep boundaries and engage in dangerous mobile or online behaviour. Teachers are therefore needed to provide students with the intellectual and emotional tools to make the correct decisions.
- Help students set their own personal boundaries. Engage in hypothetical scenarios and aske them to set their levels of tolerance or boundaries.
- Bring it all out into the open. Get students to talk openly to their friends about their boundaries before they are tested. Teach them that true friends will always respect their boundaries.
- Let them know that it’s okay to share concerns. If they are concerned about a friend’s health and/or safety, it’s okay and neccessary to speak with a trusted adult.
- Make the classroom an area where they can talk about things that are making them feel uncomfortable. Teachers can ask students to create and sign their own ‘non-judgement’ pledge, to guarantee ‘buy-in’ from the class.
The age when teenages get their first phone, is getting younger and younger and texting has become the communication of choice for them. This combined with teenage hormonal development has created a ‘perfect storm’ in sexting.
Sexting is the unofficial term for sending suxual images via text message. This can come in the form of nude or partially nude images. It is of course an illegal activity when it involves children under the age of 18 years. So what can teachers do?
- Teachers need to be aware that sexting is prevalent in middle and high schools across the Nation. They need to pay special attention to any discussions or mentions of inappropriate texts and be aware of school pilicies regarding same.
- Students need to be told of the potential of the ‘unintended audience. Student relationships come and go on a frequent basis, any inappropriate images can be used in the event of a fight or relationship break-up.
- Students need to be aware that texts do not just disappear when deleted from a phone. Texts do not magically fly through the air from phone to phone and they are stored PERMANENTLY on a computer system.
- Talk with parents during school events and encourage them to tell their children that behaviours such as ‘sexting’ is unacceptable and dangerous.
Inappropriate online material
We are all aware of the amount of inappropriate content on the internet. In our current technology driven classrooms, instances of this type of content occurring are high. Despite the best filtering attempts by schools. This can be accidental or deliberate, but planning to handle these situations is necessary.
- Encourage positive and appropriate uses. The internet can be a valuable resource tool to all students, but they need to know, in no uncertain terms what is and what is not acceptable.
- Teach students to know what to do if inappropriate content is accessed.
- Be aware and adhere to school policy given the situation of inappropriate content being accessed.
- Make students aware that all data and content is permanently stored on servers. A sense of fear does not need to be created, but students need to be aware of this fact.
- Involve parents in the conversation. Responsible internet usage is not just a school issue. Parents too, need to set clear rules and expectations regarding the appropriate use of the internet.
There is no doubt that the above information are often uncomfortable topics for both teachers and students. But it is necessary to develop a plan for both.