Online safety tips for learners

by David Brasch

Major advances in technology over the last three decades have significantly changed how we communicate with each other, especially through the Internet. Today, children are surrounded by technology. From a young age, most learn about how to use the Internet and end up more tech-savvy than many of the adults in their lives. However, being tech-savvy and knowing how to use the Internet doesn’t always mean that children understand how to stay safe online.

It’s important for children to understand the potential impact of their online activity. They need to know how to stay safe when using the Internet for school and personal reasons. Here are a few ways to help learners stay safe when using the Internet.

Avoid sharing personal information

Learners should avoid sharing their personal information like their home address, phone number, email address, and other important information in public areas on the Internet. Places like social media or chat rooms, even the comment section of a YouTube video, are all public areas that everyone on the Internet has access to. Expressing to learners that when they are interacting with people online, they should avoid sharing their personal information for security reasons, even if the learner thinks they’re only sharing the information with someone they know. Recommending to the learner to, instead, pick up the phone and call when they need to provide personal information to a teacher, fellow student, friend, or family member.

Never share passwords

Online passwords were created to lock up important information and keep it safe. It’s critical that learners keep their passwords private and never share them in public places on the Internet. Cyber security even recommends that passwords not be shared with family and close friends because unknowingly, they could in turn share it with the wrong people. Sharing passwords could result in issues like identity theft, which can take years to resolve. Overall, learners should be taught to keep passwords private and secure.

Use email wisely

Learners should always talk with their parents before opening an email attachment or clicking on a link within an email. Emails can be a place for viruses to enter and attack computers, and sometimes those viruses can steal personal information from the system. Teach learners to make sure that the email is coming from a trusted source – a teacher, friend, family member, or another educator – so they are able to judge the contents of an email they receive.

Use caution when installing software

Make sure learners talk with educators or their parents about the importance of asking permission before installing new software on their computer. Parents should review the software and verify that the source of the software is trusted and necessary. If unsure of the software’s trustworthiness, be sure to consult an IT expert in the community or school. Because some software is created by hackers with the sole purpose of attacking computers and gaining access to people’s personal information, it’s important to have a healthy level of caution.

Ignore offensive messages

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is a problem that many children face. Learners need to know that not everyone using the Internet has good intentions. Parents, counselors, and educators should communicate with students an important message about the support they can provide if a learner receives private messages or emails with offensive or insulting comments. Adults supporting the learner should be prepared to have open and honest conversations with learners about cyberbullying and support the learner during these experiences. Parents should speak with their learner’s teachers, counselors, and administrators for advice or to pursue further action, if necessary. It’s critical that learner avoid responding to negative comments, and it’s essential that the learner feel supported when facing cyberbullying.

About the Author

David Brasch is the IT Coordinator for Compass Charter Schools (CCS), and provides IT support to the CCS scholars, learning coaches, and staff.