Safety Tips for the Virtual Classroom

Due to the Covid19 pandemic the change to our communities has been immense.  We are all working to keep our children safe.  With this in mind, as the new school year starts, there are several schools that are maintaining the at home learning programs.  Here are a few ideas that can easily be implemented to protect students.  School districts do a good job of keeping safety and security a priority.   Online safety is just as critical.  It is the job of the schools make sure that networks are free from hacking, threats from viruses are limited and access is controlled to staff and students.  Parents need to step up and make sure they are protecting their children while at home in the new virtual classroom.

We do not often think of the background behind us when we are connecting to our online meetings.  Privacy is a big threat if we aren’t careful.  When our children log on from their rooms the entire world can see things that might not need to be shared.  Messy rooms, hobbies, collectibles, discarded trash and any other embarrassing items could be used against a child.  Bullies, predators, and blackmailers have often compromised someone based solely on embarrassing information.  There are numerous examples of this online of unwitting victims revealing too much from a zoomed in reflection of a mirror, something left on the floor or an open closet door.  Parents need to realize the role as protector includes limiting the exposure the world has inside the bedroom of their children.  I strongly recommend that all students sit with their backs to a wall or in a less private room when taking online courses.  Those savvier computer users upload an imaginary background which is a feature of most online meeting platforms.

Parents should make sure their children know how to use the functions of the online meeting program.  We think of our children as being computer literate but often they are only simple users.  Demonstrating how to toggle camera and microphone buttons is a simple skill that is sometimes lost on children.  Keeping the microphone/camera off when listening to the teacher is a must.  Unless directed otherwise, the default should be for these to be off.  This can prevent unwanted humiliation from something being yelled in a household or a family member appearing on camera.  Whenever possible it is best if students conduct online learning in an open area of the house.  They will tend to be less distracted by phones, games, or television if they are being supervised by an adult.  An inexpensive set of earbuds or headphones will prevent them from being distracted by other family members.  Turned off cameras will focus students on the teacher and not the actions of all the other students.  We need to demonstrate the importance of remote learning and teach our children this is a skill that can be honed for later use in life either from online college courses, remote meetings or other virtual training.

The world is rapidly changing in order to meet the health and safety needs of the community.  The new way of learning and communicating comes with both pros and cons.  Protecting privacy, reducing opportunities for exploitation and enhancing the ability to learn remotely need to all be balanced for our students.  The school administrators will be diligent in their efforts to keep students safe.  Parents play an important role in protecting their individual children.