Rather Than Monitor Students' Web Use, Teach Them Good Digital Citizenship
leaders are responsible for making sure that students use
district-owned computers and Internet access safely and responsibly.
Failure to do so could put students at risk and could result in legal
liability, bringing significant fallout for district leaders.
these reasons, many school systems use software that monitors
students’ Internet activity and reports on possible misuses of
technology. However, the use of monitoring software has come
under scrutiny recently.
For instance, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) warns
that online monitoring tools could have unintended consequences, such
as “outing” LGBTQ+ students or otherwise violating students’
students who indicate that their school uses monitoring software,
many report a chilling effect on their behavior and self-expression
Six in 10 students agree with the statement, “I do not share my
true thoughts or ideas because I know what I do online is being
monitored,” and 80 percent report being more careful about what
they search for online when they know they’re being monitored.
questions about whether tracking students may cause them to hesitate
before accessing important resources,” CDT observes, such as
information about mental health or other sensitive topics.
a better way to keep students safe online than monitoring their
Internet activity. By teaching students how to become responsible
digital citizens, not only can educators avoid the privacy issues
inherent in watching what students do online, but they’ll also be
helping students make better online decisions throughout their lives.
is critical, because educators won’t always be able to look over
students’ shoulders as they use the web — literally or
figuratively. Students must learn how to use technology and the
Internet safely and responsibly at all times, including when they’re
using their own personal devices outside of school.
cyber citizenship instruction should begin early on in a child’s
education, ideally when students first use technology for learning.
Young children should learn the basics of staying safe online, such
as not revealing personal information about themselves or others.
They should learn respectful and appropriate online behavior, such as
how to treat others with kindness and empathy on the Internet. They
should learn how to report Internet threats, cyber bullying and other
inappropriate behavior they see online.
citizenship instruction should continue with age-appropriate lessons
and activities throughout a child’s education. As students get
older, for example, they should learn how to use social media safely
and responsibly. They should learn the difference between the public
and private settings on sites like Facebook and how to use these
controls effectively. They should learn about the digital footprint
they’re creating when they post to social media websites and what
it says about their character. They should understand that the
comments and photos they post online can’t be completely erased.
They should learn about the dangers of sexting.
students should also learn cyber security best practices, such as how
to establish secure passwords and keep them safe — as well as and
how to recognize and avoid potential Internet scams. They should
understand how cyber criminals use social engineering techniques to
exploit human emotions in order to carry out their attacks, and they
should know how to maintain good cyber hygiene by keeping operating
systems and security software up to date.
students’ Internet use might seem like a good idea, but it can’t
take the place of high-quality digital citizenship education from
kindergarten through high school. Teaching safe and responsible
online behavior and reinforcing these lessons through age-appropriate
activities is the best way to keep students safe both in and out of
school, while setting them up for a lifetime of digital success.
About the Author
Hanine Salem is a Managing Partner at Novus
where she heads both the K-12 Education and the Organizational
Performance & Effectiveness practices. Novus’ Youth
Cyber Citizenship Course
teaches students ages 15-18 about cyber security best practices, such
as how to protect themselves and their devices from online attacks
and how to recognize and report on cybercriminal activities.