More time spent on the internet the last few months is only increasing with online schooling. Districts have put precautions in place in order to make sure device usage is safe and effective.
Susan Anderson, the coordinator of technology and data management for the St. Joseph School District, said staff have been busier than ever at their help desk as concerns arise from students and their families about online safety, but they have systems in place to be able to help.
“We have the capability to remote into devices so sometimes they can even act like they’re right there to see what the student is seeing and help them that way,” Anderson said.
District staff only monitor school-supplied devices, however, and Anderson said that’s why it’s important that parents are taking an active role while their child uses the internet.
“Talk to your kids abut online safety before you let them online. Make sure they’re supervised as much as possible when they’re online,” she said. “Setting up a computer in the living room as opposed to them being in their bedroom doing their searching, putting time limits on their computer use. If they’re taking their computer to their room at night after bedtime hours, you don’t know what they’re doing during that time.”
In addition to keeping students safe with internet searches, Corporal Brandon Cabrera, a school resource officer with the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office agreed with Anderson that parents need to know the webpage their child is on.
“Just knowing what websites they’re visiting, going on the websites with them, being familiar with them,” Cabrera said. “And there’s lots of tools on the web to look up to help support you in seeing dangers out there — what to look for, what not to look for to keep your child safe.”
An additional feature many school-supplied devices contain is an alert to principals warning when a child is trying to search an alarming term. This is done in order to provide an extra level of security to the student.
“We set alerts on it so principals are notified if students are searching for certain words. So we have searching terms that indicate suicide or self-harm, we have it set so the principal gets an alert,” Anderson said. “Bullying, depression, those kinds of things. Alerts go out so someone can check on that student and make sure they’re safe.”
Cabrera said parents and students need to be careful with any information they are giving out, too.
“We really have to be careful what we’re putting out there. Any type of personal information, where you live and such, to the public. Because once it’s out there, unfortunately it’s out there forever,” Cabrera said.
Detective Brendan McGinnis at the St. Joseph Police Department works electronic crimes and said his colleagues have seen an uptick in cyber malwares and virus links. He said it’s important for students as well as adults to understand what is a not a safe link.
“You open the window for that to get onto your computer. Number one thing would be to only use the verified apps, and the verified apps meaning Zoom or Skype or apps like that that might ask permission for contacts or your camera but they shouldn’t be asking permission for anything else on your phone,” McGinnis said.
Anderson said school-provided devices do not have specific anti-virus protection, but blocking sites decrease the ability for students to come into contact with a corrupted link.