Staying Safe Online- Whose Responsibility is it?

Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

As educators, it’s our role to promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions. Students need to be aware that their behavior and actions online have an impact on others, so we should guide them to make appropriate choices. Much of the online activity that students participate in takes place at home, however, so it’s important for parents to be informed as well. Together we must help both students and parents gain an awareness of the good, the bad and the ugly of the digital world.

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Where is the first place I go for help on online safety and cyberbullying? No other than our fantastic Technology Coach, Chrissy Hellyer. At International School Bangkok, our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is clear. There is No Room For Tolerance. But detecting cyberbullying is no always easy, so it’s necessary to educate students on how bullying looks online and how they can deal with it.

In conjunction with the counselors, our technology coach helps students to understand online safety. In particular, Chrissy Hellyer likes to talk about YAPPY and SMART rules. This helps students understand what information is safe to share online and what we should keep private to protect ourselves. Professor Garfield seems to be a particularly fun character to help introduce the idea of cyberbullying.

Understanding and eradicating cyberbullying, however is not as simple as it seems. As Danah Boyd states in “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, “If we want to combat bullying, we need to start by understanding the underlying dynamics.” That’s where counselors need to be part of the process. Teens often desperately seek attention and enjoy drama. As Boyd continues, “Girls ostracize one another either because of personal collisions or in support of their friends’ dramas. They make each other miserable by spreading rumors or gossiping behind their back. Technology is employed in efforts to humiliate, deprecate, or isolate. The end result for girls tends to be verbal and emotional torment.” While boys interact in other ways, they too need to be aware of the power of their words.

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While cyberbullying is a complicated issue to tackle, Boyd seems to hit the nail on the head. “Combating bullying is not going to be easy, but it’s definitely not going to happen if we don’t dive deep in the mess that underpins it and surrounds it. We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life.” (“Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers)

Digital citizenship should be actively taught, alongside online safety, but we should be building up students’ self esteem, and helping them to gain a sense of personal identity at the same time. Creating a positive digital footprint is an important part in this process, as is focusing on personal virtues. If students have a strong sense of right and wrong, and how to treat others in a positive way, then cyberbullying should only occur as isolated incidents.

As John Merrow states in Teaching kids to be ‘digital citizens’ (not just ‘digital natives’), “Because (students) are using technology to create and are enjoying the fruits of their labor, they will be, I believe, less likely to use technology’s power negatively. Strong in their own sense of self, they are less likely to feel the need to bully and cyber-bully others.”




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4 Responses to “Staying Safe Online- Whose Responsibility is it?”

  • Comment from Gwen Martin

    Thanks for the links. I will definitely use Professor G with the 3rd graders.

  • Comment from Jaclynn

    Hi Cheryl,

    Do we teach at the same school?! Fourth graders are so much more capable using technology and navigating their learning through websites, software and hardware. They do need to learn how to stay safe and not to abuse their privilege in this “virtual” world. It does take bullying to a different level when it’s not a face-to-face confrontation.

    I guess my kinders will have to learn social skills and character education the old-fashioned way…on the playground and in class. Hopefully these skills will transfer over when they get to the upper grades.

    In the meantime, I recently read ASIJ’s 5th grade teacher, Grant Trolls’ final project. Neat concept of teaching digital citizenship. Check it out…
    link to

  • Avatar of Cheryl Terry Comment from Cheryl Terry

    Thanks Jac,

    It certainly does make a difference what grade level you teach, and 4th graders are definitely capable of doing a lot with technology. We’re looking forward to working with your class on the AUP and helping them to show responsible use of technology.

    I agree that Grant Rolls’ AUP was clear and really user friendly for kids. It will certainly be useful to show the ASIJ AUP to our classes too, to help them process the main ideas of the Acceptable Use Policy.

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