How to ensure online safety in schools

With more students than ever gaining access to online learning platforms‭, ‬school districts receiving E-rate funding now are required to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, mandating they monitor how students are using the Internet. ‬It can be difficult to establish a balance between providing a secure online learning environment and giving students enough freedom to enhance their learning with technology‭. ‬This checklist aims to provide you with an overview of five simple steps you can take to implement a practical‭, ‬comprehensive‭ internet safety plan at your school‭.‬

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1‭. ‬Implement a consistent‭ district approach

There is no better way to approach online safety than to arm your school community with the tools‭, ‬knowledge and resources they need to protect themselves online‭. ‬Ensure that your Internet safety plan is inclusive of parents‭ and students alike‭, ‬and that it is adaptable to the needs of the school community more broadly‭. ‬

A consistent approach is a successful one‭. ‬CIPA requires every school district to develop an Internet safety plan that addresses access to inappropriate material, safety and security of students when using electronic communications, unauthorized access and other unlawful online activities, and unauthorized disclosure, use and dissemination of personal information regarding students.

2‭. ‬Provide clear channels of communication

In order to implement a district approach to online safety‭, ‬schools must engage fully with students‭, ‬parents and the school‭ ‬community at large‭. ‬This engagement requires clear and open channels of communication between all, ‬where potential‭ ‬threats to online safety can be safely reported and efficiently addressed‭. ‬

Encourage feedback and offer both advice and resources to ensure that your school community feels supported and engaged in your approach to online learning‭.‬

3‭. ‬Establish a transparent internet safety policy

District policies related to the dissemination, use and disclosure of student information on the Internet also are necessary. Policies should address disclosure of student information on school Web sites, student disclosure of personal information about themselves or others, and staff dissemination of confidential student information via e-mail.

4‭. ‬Supply regular‭, ‬high quality‭, ‬inclusive training

Schools should determine how frequently they will provide educational programs or curriculum by evaluating local or community needs, and should retain documents demonstrating the frequency with which they provide their students with such programs or access to such curriculum. For example, a school might decide to provide training about appropriate online behavior to its students when they first start using the Internet and then every other year that follows.

5‭. ‬Ensure resources are both up-to-date and available‭ ‬

An effective Internet safety plan is one which is both positive and inclusive‭. ‬Ensure that you make resources readily available‭ ‬for students to educate themselves in their own time‭. Provide parents‭, ‬students and teachers with the online resources detailed‭ ‬below‭, ‬allowing all members of your school community to learn how to develop a positive‭, ‬informed and safe attitude to online learning‭.‬

Family Online Safety Institute
KidSafe Foundation
Childnet International
Center for Cyber Safety and Education
CyberWise
Web Wise Kids
Internet Matters



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