Cyber safety is simple, according to online safety specialist John Parsons. It's not really about technology at all; it's about student well-being.
A Rotary International Fellow whose area of expertise is child protection, Parsons recently gave a presentation to an enthusiastic group of school leaders in Christchurch, New Zealand and shared some interesting insights.
Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for their students. Children today don’t inhabit two worlds - online and offline - but only one. And the internet is simply an extension of that. In fact, why do we even call them "digital" citizens at all? In the end it's not about the technology, or the digital platform - it's about the fundamental values each individual brings to their environment, digital or otherwise.
Students are on school grounds for only about 12% of the average academic year. So for a school cyber safety policy to be effective, parental engagement is absolutely essential.
Holistic cyber safety
“Cyber safety” is about so much than simply protecting children from harm. It encompasses all aspects of a student's well-being - including relationships and values both at home and school. well-being, for example, might include boundaries around evening screen-time to ensure students are not arriving at school sleep-deprived.
Online safety expert and author John Parsons: Cyber safety is all about well-being
Cyber-separation in the home occurs when the parent has little understanding or involvement with their child's online world. Many parents find it easier to defer responsibility for their child's online behaviour to the school. But taking technology out of the centre of the equation and emphasising well-being instead allows parents to more easily understand the importance of a values-based, relationship-style support system.
Children are not good at self-regulating; therefore a partnership approach between home and school is needed to provide age-appropriate levels of guardianship to support the development of
- self control,
- empathy, and
- a strong sense of self-worth.
The 'rule of optimism'
School leaders need staff to guard against the 'rule of optimism'. When student safety is in question, don’t think: "what if I'm wrong?" Think: "what if I'm right?"
Schools need to have a strong induction process around their child protection policies and procedures. School leaders need to instruct all staff (from the school bus driver to the caretaker) that if there is any doubt that a student is unsafe, they need to:
- maintain professional boundaries,
- stay inside their knowledge base, and
- bring professionals in to investigate.
If you'd like to explore these ideas in more depth, we highly recommend Parson's book Keeping Your Children Safe Online: A guide for New Zealand parents
FZ Schools offers a unique eco-system approach to cyber safety to protect children's well-being at school, at home and everywhere in between.
For more information on our School Partner Program, or to book a demo for your school, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.