Schools In

SCHOOL’S IN

Eight in 10 Filipino children and adolescents are at risk of being bullied or sexually abused online, according to a 2016 UNICEF study. Thanks to the rise of internet access and smartphones, many children are wired 24/7.

The good news is that almost one-third of a child’s day is spent in school – and being in an environment that actively educates children about online safety lowers the risk.

SETTING GUIDELINES

While the internet opens wide doors for learning, students’ internet use should always be guided and age-appropriate. Just as you would keep an eye on students in real life during a field trip, teachers must be aware of what their students do online in school.

1. Partner with your school’s IT department to set safe browsing controls on all computer units used by students and monitor the network for patterns of inappropriate use.

2. Provide a clear academic goal when you task students to go online.

3. Acquaint yourself with tools that will help you monitor their activity and recognize risks, such as browsing history.

4. Teach students what information should be kept private and not shared online:

  • Birth date
  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Home address
  • Phone number
  • School
  • Identifying posts and photos (e.g. through geotagging)

5. Practice role-playing with students to help them understand risks online and how to avoid them:

  • When is a stranger online potentially dangerous?
  • How can you recognize online grooming?
  • How do you deal with a cyberbully?
  • How can you keep safe when posting videos online?
  • What do I do if someone is making me feel uncomfortable online?
You are part of your students’ first line of defense against online abuse and exploitation. The first step to prevention is building a relationship of trust, openness and respect with your students.
You are part of your students’ first line of defense against online abuse and exploitation. The first step to prevention is building a relationship of trust, openness and respect with your students.

PARENTS ARE PARTNERS

Working with your students’ parents and caregivers can also help reduce the risk of online abuse or exploitation. Maintain open communication lines about your students’ academic internet use and encourage parents to be aware and observe any red flags exhibited at home.

SPOTTING RED FLAGS

The signs of sexual exploitation and abuse are often similar whether it happens online or offline. The child may:

  • spend more time than usual online, on social media, gaming or texting
  • spend less time than usual online, as if withdrawing
  • hide their mobile phone or erase their browsing history
  • be secretive or overly defensive about who they’re talking to or what they’re doing online
  • be angry, upset or pensive after spending time online
  • miss school or avoid activities they normally enjoy
  • be anxious, aggressive, withdrawn or behave differently than usual
  • engage in risky behavior, drugs or alcohol
  • entertain thoughts about self-harm or suicide

Let your students know that it’s safe to ask you questions and confide in you. They should feel that you are on their side and you believe in and support them.

RESPONDING EFFECTIVELY

Talk

If you suspect a student may be a victim of online abuse and exploitation, first – stay calm. Take care to respond with sensitivity and compassion, but without overreacting or being emotional.

Lead off by offering an open door, with a non-threatening question: “I’ve noticed that you’ve missed glee club meetings for a month now. Are you having some trouble that I could help you with?”

The child may refuse to open up at first, but be patient. The child must understand that you are ready to listen when they are ready to talk. When they do:

  • Listen carefully and show that you are taking them seriously
  • Assure the child that he or she did the right thing telling you
  • Tell the child that he or she is not to blame for the abuse
  • Offer your help in taking action to stop the abuse
  • Report the incident to the proper authorities