Kids today spend half of their waking hours using technology, which helps to define and shape their identities and relationships, and directly impacts the school environment. We have a responsibility to understand online safety for ourselves, and then help guide kids to be safer in this connected world.

As educators, you can help students become ethical, responsible, and resilient digital citizens. You don’t have to be tech savvy: use the tips below that rely on common sense and basic online safety practices. 

1. Protect your devices and info

Take these steps to guard devices against someone who tries to break in and impersonate or spy on you, scam you, or use malicious software to destroy or steal your photos, contact lists, and other info.

  • Keep all software (especially your web browser) current with the latest updates and patches.

  • Install legitimate antivirus and antispyware software.

  • Confirm that your device's firewall is turned on.

  • Protect your wireless router with a good password, and use flash drives cautiously. For more information see Be safer over wireless connections.

  • Think twice (even if you know the sender) before you open attachments or click links in email, SMS text messages, or on social media. For more information see Protect yourself from phishing.

  • Use strong passwords, and DO NOT SHARE THEM—not even with your best friend. Also don't reuse passwords; use a different password at each site. For more information see Create and use strong passwords.

  • Use your phone's screen lock feature to keep anyone from making calls, texting, or accessing your personal info without your permission.

2. Share with care

Information you share online about yourself or comments you post can become public. They may remain in search results for years to come, potentially visible to a future employer or college admissions officer.

Follow this advice to guard against someone turning your information against you to bully, impersonate you, steal your identity, or scam you.

  • Don’t share suggestive photos or videos. 

  • Make your social network pages private. One way is to look for Settings or Options on the social site to manage who can see your profile or photos tagged with your name, how people can search for you, who can make comments, and how to block people.

  • Create profile pages and email addresses that reveal nothing personal and aren’t suggestive.

  • Be choosy about adding new friends on social sites, or in games.

For more information see The dangers of oversharing.

3. Be a real friend

  • If you wouldn’t wear it on a T-shirt, don’t share it.

  • Stand up for your friends. Cyberbullies are less likely to target someone who has a strong group of friends, and usually stop when a victim’s friends rally around him or her. (Cyberbullies may be surprised to learn that their actions may be crimes.)

  • Don’t share personal details of friends and family members without their permission.

4. Connect honestly and carefully

  • Don’t download copyrighted music, video games, etc.—it’s illegal. Plus, pirated files are often used to distribute viruses and spyware without the user’s knowledge.

  • Don’t copy text from the web or buy finished essays or reports. When you copy you don't learn the material, and the learning is what it's all about. Besides, many schools and teachers have tools now that can automatically spot plagiarized papers, so the odds of getting caught are higher than you might expect.

  • Meeting an online “friend” in person can be risky. If you're going to meet somebody you've only known online protect yourself: always bring a parent, trusted adult, or friend, and meet in a busy public place.

Advice for Parents

Parents experience daily the constant connection their kids have with technology and how it shapes their reality. That’s why parents can play a vital role in helping their kids develop the skills and ethics they need to make their own informed decisions. In your conversations with parents about online issues, suggest that they pay attention to what kids do and who they meet online. It’s particularly important for parents to negotiate clear guidelines for web and online game use that fit both their kid’s maturity and the family’s values. 

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