Think like a parent: How can schools keep students safe on their devices?

Implementing technological barriers to keep students from accessing harmful content online is the school's responsibility, say not only parents but also teachers and administrators.

Most chief technology officers would agree that equipping students with personal devices comes with its own set of challenges.

As children pull away from the traditional pencil and paper, their excuses for losing their devices start to get more creative beyond “my dog ate my homework.” Think: “I sold mine to a guy overseas.” That was the case for one CTO who spoke with District Administration about the difficulties of device and inventory management in a school setting.

Looking beyond the risks of providing students with physical devices, take some time to ponder the psychological and emotional effects it might inflict as they spend hours each day staring at their screens browsing the internet.

If you’re thinking like a parent, you ought to feel a little unsettled. If you’re a school administrator or CTO, ask yourself, “What technological barriers do we have in place to keep students from accessing harmful content online?” If your answer is none, 91% of parents would like you to take some action—swiftly.

According to a recent survey conducted by a decision intelligence company Morning Consult, nearly 2,500 K-12 parents, teachers and administrators expressed high levels of concern for student mental health, in addition to supporting online technologies to keep students safe as they use their devices.

Most respondents agree that the internet is a necessary and important learning tool for students. But their concerns indicate a need for increased online safety technology for K-12 students. Here’s what the results say:

Content moderation

  • The internet should be part of the learning process for students in K-12 schools, according to 93% of parents and 98% of teachers and administrators.
  • 74% of K-8 and 68% of 9-12 parents expressed great concern about students accessing harmful content on their school-issued devices. This number grows to 80% for teachers and administrators.
  • Content moderation is a must for more than 91% of respondents overall. Additionally, 95% believe it is the school’s job to implement these tools.
  • Technology leads to distraction. 88% of respondents say online technologies should be implemented to help keep students on track and distraction-free as they use their devices.

“These findings validate on a broad, national scale what we’ve long heard directly from our customers: parents and educators believe in the value of learning with the internet, and they trust schools to make the right decisions to keep students safe online,” said Patricia Bothwell, vice president and general manager for safety and productivity at GoGuardian, on online safety tools provider, in a statement.

Student mental health

  • Concern for student mental health is high among parents and school staff. More than 83% of all respondents report feeling a “high level of concern” for student mental health and violence in schools.
  • More than 72% agree the internet plays a significant role in influencing students’ decisions to harm themselves or others.
  • Regarding students having unrestricted access to the internet, more than 75% agree such access is detrimental to the mental health of students.
  • Online educational technology should be implemented across K-12 schools that detect signs of students considering harming themselves or others, according to nearly 90% of respondents.

The bottom line for school administrators is that parents trust their school systems to keep their children safe while they use their school-issued devices. More than 83% of those polled said they trust their schools to implement the appropriate technological barriers if it means their children are safe as they complete their assignments.

“With almost 9 out of 10 students in the U.S. now using a device as part of their daily instruction, it’s more important than ever to provide schools with thoughtful and comprehensive approaches to student safety, privacy and security,” said Bothwell.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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