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Students & Online Safety: What They Don't Know CAN Hurt Them

Students & Online Safety: What They Don't Know CAN Hurt Them

Do you talk to your students about what they post and access online and the long-lasting repercussions that can occur as a result?

I think we can all agree--for the most part--the internet is an amazing thing. Anything you want to learn more about, all you have to do is search and voilà: more information than you possibly need or want. But just like anything else, there's always a downside; all sorts of harmful content is available, and if our students know where to go, it's pretty easily accessible. So it's up to the adults in their lives to make sure they know how to behave online and how to stay safe.

I often hear from schools that have a student who shared something digitally that has then been shared/viewed by the masses, causing the student embarrassment, stress and other negative reactions. And while the short-term effects can be traumatic, sometimes it's the long-term ones that have even worse consequences. In the excitement of the moment, students do not think about how actions can immediately affect them, much less what the long-term effects can have on their lives:

  • Universities more and more are researching prospective students' online content. What they find may lead them to rescind academic and/or athletic scholarships. This has happened at several Oklahoma colleges and will only continue to increase.
  • Businesses have not offered positions when they discover applicants' online content. People have also lost their jobs based on things they have posted/shared online.
  • People have been turned down for mortgages they wanted when the bank discovers applicants' online content and decide they do not want to be affiliated with them.

So how do we help students understand how to behave online and use digital resources responsibly?

  • No longer should the computer teacher be the only one in school responsible for educating students responsible digital citizenship. In fact, a growing number of schools no longer even have computer labs because of classroom sets of laptops and one-to-one student laptop initiatives. This should be a topic all teachers incorporate into their lessons.
  • When at all possible, schools should work with parents on educating them about the latest online trends, including popular social media apps students are using. Teachers should share resources and talking points that parents/families can use at home with their children to keep the discussion going.
  • While we don't want to scare our children about what could happen, it is important to be honest when talking to them about the consequences, both short- and long-term (using age-appropriate language).

This post comes on the heels of the latest online game, the Momo challenge. Even though this challenge is a hoax, many students aren't able to determine what is true and what isn't, so it's up to us as adults to stay informed, know what our students are doing online and help them understand the importance of being safe and responsible with anything they do using digital resources.

We offer student training on digital citizenship and online safety, so please let us know you would like to schedule a session.

Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she provides support, consultation and training on a variety of critical tools and PR functions, including communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations and website content.

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