Safe experiences with monitoring and support can help children understand digital safety. In today’s show, Wanda Terral talks about how to help kids understand digital safety.
5 Ways to Help Kids Understand Digital Safety Without Scaring Them To Death
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e305
Date: May 5, 2018
Vicki: Today we are talking with Wanda Terral, 23-year educator and district tech coordinator in Lakeland, Tennessee.
We are going to talk about five ways to help kids understand digital safety without scaring them to death.
Wanda, how do we get started?
Wanda: I think the biggest, important thing is to give kids an opportunity to practice all of these things that we are teaching them about.
Give kids an opportunity to practice
For years we have been telling them, “Protect your safety, protect your identity,” but they don’t have a chance to practice that.
In our district, we really provide them a nice walled garden where they can explore and push the boundaries a little bit like kids are going to do anyway.
But we keep an eye on them and we have those teachable moments because we are able to provide that in that environment.
Vicki: What do you use for your walled garden environment?
Wanda: We are a G-Suite district and our students ChromeBooks – that certainly adds a level of safety that we are able to monitor. We have added on additional features: we use Securely, we also use GoGuardian in combination with Securely.
We also provide a backup of their Google account through SysCloud, which adds some additional policies that trigger things when students do things that they are not supposed to do, like sending emails directly to our guidance counselors if there are examples of bullying going on in a Google Doc, on a Google Slide, so a lot of things that we use the technology to keep an eye on them but also let us know when we need to intervene.
Use the technology to keep an eye on them
Vicki: Let’s talk about the second item, keeping an eye on things. I am intrigued. Are the students able to generate the emails to the guidance counselor, or is that generated automatically by the teacher? How does that work?
Wanda: It’s generated by the services we use. It’s based on triggers, usually by keywords. For example, if a student is on their ChromeBook and they decide to go to Google and search for suicide, an email gets sent automatically out of the system to whoever we have it assigned to go to.
We have it assigned to go to our guidance counselor at the school for that child, as well as our district psychologist. I also get a copy of that so I can make sure that nothing falls in the cracks. It goes beyond that self-harm as well.
We have different policies in the service that allow us to monitor words that are common to cyber-bullying, words that are more threatening, so that we are able to — without manual intervention — keep an eye on them. The technology keeps an eye on them for us, and then, when needed, we will intervene.
Vicki: Have some positives come out of this method of keeping an eye on things using technology to really amp up the eyes that are there, too?
Wanda: Absolutely. We don’t have enough hours in the day to do what we have to do, especially in a small district like mine, where we wear a lot of hats. Leveraging the technology to help us in that process not only makes us more sane, but it keeps our students safer.
Vicki: Awesome. You’re creating an environment where they can practice, you’re keeping an eye on things by harnessing the power of technology. How do you try to model digital citizenship, like helping them resolve issues when there are problems?
Help them resolve issues when there are problems
Wanda: Usually what will happen first is sometimes we’ll contact the teacher and involve them as well. Frequently, it is the traditional, “Come to the office. Let’s talk about this.” What we try to have our teachers do, particularly in our middle school where we are one-to-one grades five through eight is encouraging teachers to use the tools in the classroom and incorporate guidelines for how to behave as they’re doing these projects and using these tools.
For example, if they are doing a flip-grid assignment where they are recording a video and then they have to go on and give comments to other students, they stress the concept of “Would you like somebody talking badly to you? Well no, don’t do that. Don’t go talk badly about somebody else.” How do you provide constructive criticism, and how do you do that in a technological environment?
Give them guidelines for how to behave
Vicki: That is so important. I teach the kids the compliment sandwich: a genuine compliment, constructive feedback, and another genuine compliment, so that other people know they are appreciated, but we all have a way to improve.
Now, Wanda, let’s talk about not scaring kids to death.
Because there are risks, and a lot of kids don’t think about all their private social media that they think are private, but they’re really not. How do these first three things we talked about roll over into what kids do at home? How do you keep from scaring them to death but encouraging them to use SnapChat in a positive way, for example?
Wanda: The thing that we try to do is we try not to scare them, but we also want to teach them that people are always watching. I think that it’s possible to do that without scaring someone. When a student in our system searches for something or goes to a website that gets flagged as inappropriate, they know we’re watching because we are keeping an eye on them, and we reach out and have those discussions.
Teach them that people are watching and deal with issues
I think there is a fine balance between the “Am I paranoid that someone is watching me?” and “Are they really watching me?” That fear can definitely come in there. I think the concept of getting the kids to understand that we’re not trying to be punitive, but that we’re trying to keep them safe.
Wanda: There are bad things out there, but if you do what we are trying to teach you how to do, you’ll have a chance to deal with that when you get older. (laughs)
Vicki: You know what blows my mind is when I deal with an issue and kids are so shocked that I know they searched for this, or I know they did that. Why are they so shocked that we’re able to monitor their behavior? Why aren’t business people so shocked that their business is monitoring their behavior? We don’t really like it because we want this false idea of privacy, but why are people so shocked with this?
Wanda: I know. And this is our first year of a one-to-one. I kind of figured after the first couple of months, it would get out to the kids, you know? “I looked for this and they called me to the office.” They know we’re watching, and they still push the buttons because that’s what kids do. They think, “Maybe today I can get away with it.”
They’re learning, and we are providing them that environment to push those boundaries. I’m hoping that, as they get older, once they’ve gotten used to working in that kind of environment and their maturity catches up with their skill levels, that they’ll understand we’re here to teach them. We’re here to keep them safe.
Vicki: You’ve talked about creating an environment where they can practice, keeping an eye on things, using technology tools to help the people that are in those spaces, helping kids learn how to resolve problems, and giving them guidelines for how to behave as they go through.
Our fourth was teach them that people are watching, and deal with issues as they arise. Is there a final piece of advice that you would give to educators who are kind of scared to have students in these places? Some of them thinking, you know, easier when we could watch the hall. (laughs)
Wanda: It was much easier. It was much easier. The whole positiveness of using technology in the classroom is that it brings the world inside our classroom but there are some things in the world we don’t want in our classroom. (laughs)
Wanda: It’s a fine balance of what do we invite into our door and what do we say, “Stay away.” I think giving students the knowledge and the experience to make those decisions of “Who do I let into my house?” and empowering that student agency to make those decisions.
They may not make those decisions correctly when they are younger. The maturity level just isn’t there yet, but if we keep scaffolding that, keep providing them those opportunities, they’re going to get it. We just have to give them that environment.
Keep scaffolding and providing those opportunities to make good choices
Vicki: If you think about how those who work with wildlife prepare to release something into the wild, typically it’s a gradual process of more and more freedom, of more and more experience as that animal learns to make good decisions and adapt to the wild, and in some ways, wouldn’t you say that’s kind of what we are doing with kids?
We’re giving them more and more experience and letting them make more and more choices and guiding them so that they’re ready when it’s time to get out there.
Wanda: Absolutely, and luckily, I’m in an environment where the parents are supportive of us doing that. They know that we’re doing everything we can to keep the child safe, and they put a lot of trust in us, and we don’t want to let them down.
Vicki: Educators, we CAN help kids understand digital safety without scaring them to death. It makes a lot of sense that we can use technology to help us, that we can create safe environments, but I believe the WRONG thing to do, while it was nice to just be able to watch the halls, that is not the reality of where we are. We have digital halls as well as physical halls now, and we need to be in both.
As we blend our schools and we blend our classrooms, we need to effectively take students and help them to be safe online as well as in our physical spaces.
Wanda has given us some fantastic ideas to do that. I hope you will go and apply them at your school and tweet me and let me know what you do.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Twenty-three year educator Wanda Terral is the District Technology Coordinator for the Lakeland School System (TN). A former band director, Wanda is constantly seeking information relating to techniques & practices related to the use of tech to empower students & educators.
A Google Certified Innovator & Trainer, she shares resources on Google+, Twitter, & her blog. She’s currently completing her dissertation (EdD in Instructional Design & Technology) at the U of Memphis. Area of interest include self-directed professional learning, sketchnoting, coding/programming, and cats.
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