Hmm! whose job it is to teach online safety skills? Homeroom teachers? Tech teachers, counselors, parents or all? Can the education of a child be anyone person’s responsibility? Do those get taught at school or home? One class period? A course?
As an African proverb says – “It takes a whole village to raise a child”.
The holistic education of a child is the culmination of efforts of all adults associated with a child’s life. In fact a child’s education involves not just cyber safety skills but all other life skills as well. It would involve developing problem solving, analysis and evaluation skills that would help with taking care of personal affairs, and this kind of education would most naturally lead to the online well-being as well.
- 42% of kids have been bullied online. One in four have had it happen more than once
- 35% kids have been threatened online.
- 58% have not shared about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online
The survey results indicate that the issue of cyber bullying is a reality and that there is a need for developing ‘intervention mechanisms’. The article by Danah Boyd states that ‘Empathy, Not Technology, is core of the problem and solution’ – and so educating kids about the internet and its appropriate use is mandatory in today’s world but actions like banning kids from using social media sites (or banning texting as mentioned in the article by Debbie Grieger) to communicate with peers and others is not the solution.
Cyber safety education needs to be both preventive as well as reactive. It is imperative to teach students about the connection between the online world and the real world. They need to understand that online actions could possibly have a real-life reaction, and so all forms of online activity needs to be within the framework of respect and responsibility. Students need to be taught how to communicate, create, evaluate and synthesize the information they come across and communications they accept.
The key word is ‘ balance’ and the efforts that the adults need to make to meet the needs of the children. The adults need to bridge the gap which the digital divide might have created in some cases. Sometimes the major cause for any bad online experience might be lack of role models who kids can emulate when it comes to online behavior. And so, staying updated about the newer technologies could help with having informed discussions with the kids!
Cyber safety skills cannot be taught in a separate class and can’t be confined within the realm of technology education. It needs to be intertwined with other subject areas, and that way its scope and applicability will be more concrete for the students. And there can’t be a prescribed curriculum for this! We start talking about simple cyber safety skills like – ‘always logout at the end of a session’ or ‘not sharing passwords’ very early-on and the more complex skills like e-safety of devices or unwanted contact or protecting personal information can be introduced both at home and school. The blend of both formal and informal environment is important for making connection with the kids.