Online Safety in School: Setting Rules

by Hope Morley

online safety rules for schools

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

There’s no question that digital technologies can enhance students’ learning experience. Computers, tablets, and smartphones have made it easier than ever for students to explore the world from the comforts of their own homes and classrooms. For example, connecting with peers around the globe through Mystery Skype can spark an interest in other cultures. Blogging encourages students to participate in an open dialogue with a wide audience while sharpening their own writing and research skills.

Since students use technology on a daily basis, they may already see themselves as experts. But they may not understand why it’s important to stay safe online. That’s why it’s crucial to create and maintain an online safety policy. Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind while teaching students how to use technology safely and responsibly.

Safe Use of Mobile Devices

  • Set rules for the use of devices. Clearly state when a device should be used in class and when it should be turned off and put away. Remind students that they should only use their devices to access online content that’s been approved for in-class activities. Work with administrators to draft a written policy and have students sign an agreement to follow the rules.
  • Keep track of devices at all times. Explain that students are responsible for any devices that are brought home, and teach them the best practices for taking care of each gadget. To reduce the risk of theft, make sure that devices are never left unattended in an unlocked classroom.

Safe Blogging and Social Networking

  • Remind students to avoid sharing personal information in posts or comments. This includes surnames, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, details about family members or routines, and school name and location. Consider assigning each student a nickname to safeguard privacy.
  • Monitor blog posts and comments for potentially unsafe content. Be sure to explain to students why such posts pose safety risks.
  • Keep social networking platforms secure. If you use a web-based social learning platform such as Edmodo in class, review their best practices for safety. Make sure that students understand these practices as well. 

Safe Video Conferencing and Chats

  • Inform students, staff, and parents about all conferences and chats. Detail in writing who will participate, when the conference or chat will take place, and its purpose. This can be done in an email, such as this one from Crescent School in Toronto, sent at least two days before the event. Give parents the option to excuse their children from participating, and provide an alternate activity for these students.
  • Work with the outside participant(s) to set ground rules. Rules may include who will be present and whether the conference can be recorded. You may also want to discuss avoiding the use of surnames to protect students’ privacy.

Once you’ve developed your online safety policy, share and discuss it with students. Consider asking them to help you come up with additional guidelines.

How do you encourage your students to stay safe online?

Hope MorleyHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

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