Digital technology has been steadily embedding itself into our classrooms for decades, bringing along with it countless invaluable benefits. But as the technology continues to improve, teachers need to keep vigilant of cybersecurity as well as cyberbullying, something that often goes on among students but can also happen to teachers.
One in seven teachers has been a victim of cyberbullying, which takes on many different forms. Most teachers who've been cyberbullied say it was through unpleasant emails. Others have been the subject of hate groups on social media or have received inappropriate and hurtful text messages. Some have also had their email accounts hacked, had viruses sent to them, and have had their work on the school server disrupted or deleted. And, if mere disgruntled students can do this, imagine the dangers of this personal information in the hands of malicious hackers.
One form of cyberbullying against teachers that is particularly detrimental is cyber-baiting when a student riles up a teacher to the point of the outburst, films it on the sly, and shares it with social media. A study at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University said 19.5% of boys and 13% of girls said they took a picture or a video of their teacher.
This is something teachers need to be extra careful about in the digital classroom. Even if the school has a strict no-phones-in-class policy, students are using tablets as books that have almost all the same functions their phones do. It's important for teachers to be cautious and make it a classroom rule that filming and taking photos, unless instructed to, is strictly prohibited.
One reason teachers often get blindsided is that students tend to be more technologically in-the-know, keeping up to date with all the latest apps and social media platforms. What they sometimes lack is the maturity to know how far is too far, and sadly, a teacher can be greatly affected by these things for the rest of their career and personal life.
Prevention, as in most cases, is key, and that starts with effective policies. Unfortunately, only 51% of teachers said their school had a code of conduct for how students and teachers interact online.
A strict anti-bullying policy with clear and heavy disciplinary consequences is a good place to start. Teach kids about digital etiquette, and make it a cornerstone in the digital classroom. Staff should also be given the proper technical training and be kept up to date with the latest tech trends among teens so they know what to watch out for.
Fostering a comfortable, open environment for all people at the school may make for smoother sailing if an incident were to occur. Teachers should know that they must report any form of cyberbullying or online misbehavior immediately to prevent further damage. Classrooms should be set up so that teachers can easily monitor their students' online activity as well.
Designating a tech-savvy teacher or staff member, well-versed in cyberbullying, and if possible, cyber analytics, who can monitor and police internet use, as well as educate the staff at monthly meetings on the latest tech trends may also be quite beneficial.
An important thing to remember when it comes to preventing these situations is that cybersecurity is mostly about knowledge, rather than firewalls and blocks. The beauty of the Internet, especially in schools, is that it facilitates the flow of information. If our main method of cybersecurity is putting up walls, it inhibits this necessary flow. But if we, as teachers, continue to learn and educate ourselves in the ever-changing technological climate, we will be much more protected and equipped for creating a safe, fun, and effective digital classroom.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.