Computers and the Internet are transforming learning in today’s digital environment. Many educational institutions are shifting from physical classrooms to virtual learning. Given that the Internet and technologies are becoming a lifestyle for many students, schools are embracing them seamlessly into their educational programs.
Many schools are setting up technological infrastructures such as computer labs and wireless communication systems to support learning. Teachers are now using technology to plan for their lessons, design tasks, administer tests and exams or even to motivate students. But as children are exposed to the digital world, it is essential to teach them safety issues and how they can be responsible.
Institutions should implement strategies to educate students and ensure they stay safe online. At international schools in Kuala Lumpur, some parts of learning are conducted through mobile devices and computers. The idea behind this strategy is to educate students on the responsible use of technology.
Risks that students face in their online learning
As much as computer technologies work wonders in facilitating learning, they pose a threat to the safety of students and the school as a whole. In the wake of this pandemic, most schools are delivering education through online platforms. As students interact with online devices, they face the following risks:
- Harmful behaviour practised online by fellow students
- Exposure to violent, explicit or racist content that is harmful
- Exposure to unauthorized parties who intent to bully, exploit or abuse students
Tips for protecting students against internet security threats
Schools, students and staff are bound to face computer related risks and threats that can jeopardize learning. The sad reality is that many educational institutions are not fully prepared in this era of frequent cyber attacks. Schools need to ensure safety amidst this digital buzz.
The following are measures that schools can take to ensure safety:
- Create awareness among students, faculty members and staff on the responsible use of technology and how to ensure their safety and that of the school. Educate them on how to identify potential threats such as fake emails and internet predators. Schools should also educate parents to help them guide and protect their children from such threats at home.
- Come up with policies and procedures for the acceptable use of computers and personal devices. Students tend to misuse computers. There are numerous incidents of students hacking the IT servers and accessing the information on exam materials or even clear their fee balances. There should be policies to guide the use of personal devices, social media interactions and where to seek help when necessary. When policies are put in place, it helps to prevent such violations. There should be clear consequences for policy violation.
- There should be adult supervision both at school and at homes. This is the best defence mechanism that schools can use to prevent students from misusing computers and facing potential threats. Put computers in a shared room where teachers can monitor and supervise students as they use the devices. Parents should apply the same principle at home.
- Use content filters to protect computer devices as well as students. The filters can block particular domains or harmful content and prevent students from accessing them. There are many technologically savvy students with curious minds and incredible abilities to circumvent the filters quickly. To prevent this, schools should continuously update the filtering systems.
- There should be strong access controls procedures to minimize the level of access by users. This will help to prevent accidental and deliberate attacks to the computer systems.
Put Monitoring and reporting capabilities in place.
- This will help in identifying users who visit the school’s websites and potential attacks on computer devices as well as receive notifications when there are attempts to access harmful content. The features can also help to detect any form of bullying or violence taking place online.
- Regularly check and update computer systems and network servers to ensure they have a high level of security patches.
- Establish solid online perimeter security. This entails the installation of strong firewalls for full protection of the computer networks from malicious content, unauthorized access and other forms of cyberattacks.
- Protect any sensitive data from unauthorized access. Use administrative controls and regular evaluation of confidential data to ensure their security. Multi-factor verification processes should be used to prevent third parties from accessing sensitive data.
As Secondary school integrate technology in their teaching processes, safety and security should be their primary goal. Ownership of safety should start at the top level. School heads and teachers should come with protocols that can guarantee students of their safety as they engage with digital tools and devices. Online threats can affect the morale of students and impact learning to greater extents. It is the responsibility of every teacher, parent and student to ensure their safety as they interact with online devices.