Keep It Safe; Keep It Private.

By Cara Hagen

When I first started teaching 29 years ago, being safe and secure meant having fire drills and locking windows and doors at the end of the day. How times have changed! Today, digital privacy and security have been added to the physical safety of schools. Students are becoming increasingly savvy with technology, but they may not always realize how public their online information is. Because of this, educators must learn how to teach their students online security and safety.

Where should we start?

The International Society of Technology and Education (ISTE) included the concepts of digital privacy and security in Digital Citizenship aspects of the ISTE Standards. Exploring the standards and integrating them into lessons can quickly provide educators with the opportunity to better see and address the classroom issues.

Take a few minutes to go online and carefully review the ISTE Standards for Students on Digital Citizenship and the ISTE Standards for Educators on Citizenship. For a more interactive experience, hover over each of the underlined phrases to find explanations, meanings, and implementation ideas.

What can educators do to protect data?

Due to the vast amount of privacy concerns, it can be difficult to know where to begin in order to make sure our online data is completely secure. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with each and every aspect of online confidentiality, educators should focus on the following three areas when teaching students.

  1. Protect your own data.
    • We’ve all clicked through the “agree” statement when registering for an account or tech resource. Next time, read it in its entirety to learn how your data will be used and who has access to it.
    • Some devices can also invade our privacy through webcams. It’s an easy fix to cover your webcam.
    • The simple phrase “Don’t click unless you’re sure!” can save you from many viruses, phishing, and other types of malware when clicking on an unknown link. Some questions to ask yourself are:
      • Where did it come from?
      • Who sent it?
      • Does the link or email address look legitimate?
      • Can I access this site a different way to check it out?
  2. Safely use student data.
    • Educators can access students’ data in many forms and from many tech tools. It is important to understand the responsibility that comes with this privilege. There are two systems that commonly include student data: Student Information Systems (SIS), which is often used for attendance, online gradebooks and report cards, and Learning Management Systems (LMS) that deliver blended and online learning. To keep student data truly private, follow these simple steps:
      • Lock your screen when using an SIS in common areas or stepping away from your device. Never use with a projector
      • Use caution and review policies before downloading student data to other systems.
      • Ensure that mobile devices that have sensitive data are secure.
  3. Help students protect their data.
    • Digital Citizenship lessons taught throughout the year can be opportunities to teach students to take charge of their online privacy.
      • Encourage them to develop strong passwords that are never shared.
      • Introduce them to privacy settings on hardware, apps and sites.
      • Teach students to avoid sharing personally identifiable information online (such as names, addresses, or birthdates).

Which laws should we know?
There are a number of laws that help guide our understanding of digital safety and security.

  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
    (COPPA) This law ensures that children under age 13 have their information protected online. Vendors are required to receive parent/guardian consent to collect individually identifiable information.
  • Children’s Internet Protection Act
    (CIPA) In an effort to protect children from obscene or harmful Internet content, CIPA requires schools receiving E-rate funding for Internet access to have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and an Internet block or filter system. They also must provide education to students on Internet safety and cyberbullying.
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
    (FERPA) This law was designed to protect the private information maintained in paper and digital student records. Parents have the right to know what information is maintained and may access and correct it.
  • Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment
    (PPRA) This amendment guards information that is gathered from students through evaluations and surveys concerning specific personal matters, including political affiliations, income, sex behavior, and self-incriminating behavior.

In addition to these Federal laws, each state, school, and district has its own policies regarding internet safety for students. It is important that educators review these laws annually to stay current with changes and updates to inform their professional practice.

What is the next step to learn more?
If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Privacy and Security, take time to read these resources:

Cara Hagen is a Lead Education Technology Consultant for TIES in Minnesota. Through TIES she has the pleasure of chairing the annual TIES Education Technology Conference and leading professional development sessions locally, regionally, and nationally. She is an active member and supporter of ISTE and CoSN. You can find Cara on Twitter @cdhagen.
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