Top 5 cyber welfare problems in education and how to resolve them

The concept of “smart” is seeping into all aspects of society, and now, it’s powering our classrooms. Education in Australia has undergone a massive shift over the past ten years. It has evolved from a manual learning environment to a “smarter” digital learning space powered by smart devices such as tablets, mobile phones, and smart whiteboards.

This trend has engineered the creation of “Smart Schools”, which is the next step in the integration of education and technology. Smart schools connect educators and students to limitless learning possibilities on the digital sphere.

Smart schools = smarter tech responsibility

In the creation of Smart Schools, we are witnessing new avenues of learning opening up in the digital realm. However, this new educational sphere demands the assurance of school and student cybersafety, where new security and safety threats can emerge. This is complicated by the onset of BYOD, or ‘bring your own device’ capabilities, where students are allowed to use their own smart devices in their lessons and learning.

There are pros and cons in enabling BYOD functionality in schools, along with a host of other issues that arise out of digitizing manual learning processes. Primarily, it’s entrusting students with access to a wide range of media, including “fun” content outside of education.

For instance, let’s consider social media resources such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Tumblr. These are some of the biggest academic distractions students indulge in today. Such sites are easily accessible via students’ own devices, which means that schools are tasked with the additional responsibility of ensuring that social media does not distract from academic work. Furthermore, when students bring their own devices and connect them to the school’s wireless network, there is the risk of a virus worming its way into the school’s IT network. These problems and others should be proactively managed by the school IT department, with measures in place to respond in case of network shutdowns or other issues. Furthermore, education officials must be empowered with the ability to control what level of access is provided to teachers and students.

Fortunately, there are preventive measures that schools can take to protect the institution and its students when acclimating to the “smart school” world. Thanks to the advent of advanced protective digital technology, schools can ensure that:

  1. Students are able to only access safe, appropriate content relevant to education and learning.
  2. Student-onboarded devices do not threaten the security of the school’s IT network.
  3. School decision-makers are empowered with full access privileges and can grant or revoke access.
  4. School decision-makers can access full student usage information and analytics for better business planning.
  5. School decision-makers receive instant alerts and stay on top of unusual student web activity the moment it happens.

How can I protect my students and IT network in cyberspace?
There are a plethora of cybersecurity options that provide premium services to ensure school network safety and security. Some features that you might want to check on your list should include the following:

Schools are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring student safety in all aspects whilst on school property, and this responsibility now includes cyber welfare. Your chosen software suite should have appropriate compliance controls to ensure that you are better able to fulfil your care of duty obligations as an educational institution.
Educators and other school officials should be empowered with the ability to check and track students’ web activity independently of the IT department. Does your firewall/web filter provider ensure this?
Receive instant notifications when your students access inappropriate content. The product must be able to easily catch red flags and notify educators and IT personnel immediately.
Record student usage trends and conduct analysis on web access trends over an annual period. Ensure compliant digital citizenship practices across the board and reward responsible student online behaviour.
As educators, you have the oversight to allow temporary access to certain content at your discretion. Perhaps the content is graphic, yet informative for upper-class students to use for final projects. Your software provider should ensure that you control access all the way.

Key points to remember
At the end of the school day, officials and educators should head home with the knowledge that they’ve created a safe, secure learning environment for students, whilst ensuring the safety and integrity of the school’s IT network. A primary concern is ensuring compliant digital citizen practices, and the right software solution can ensure that your network users are responsible for their usage.

As schools and indeed, the world, becomes more connected on the digital sphere, cyber threats also evolve in sophistication. Therefore, educators must exercise their utmost commitment to ensuring that our youth are free to enjoy a safe, carefully monitored online experience whilst on school property.

If you would like more information on how to fully ensure your students’ and school’s cyber welfare, get in touch with us today.