The Internet can be a great education tool for students, but it is important to ensure online safety. This article offers tips to parents and teachers about online safety and how to keep children safe while online.

Having computers accessible to students can be an effective aid to their education in any number of ways. Giving them the ability to go online may also be a boon, but only if the safety issues are proactively addressed. Here are some hints about making students' online experiences everything you hope for and nothing that you fear.


There should be an administrator account on any school computer or network that has access to settings that students do not. the administrator account can perform a variety of functions including:

  • Determining who has access to which programs and services
  • Monitoring computer activity
  • Installing and removing programs
  • Making sure the system is safe from viruses, spyware, unwanted cookies, spam, and other interference
  • Reviewing browser settings for JavaScript, cookies, and pop-up windows and setting them per school policy

In general, children in a school setting should not be using:

  • Instant Messaging
  • E-mail to send messages about anything unrelated to their classes
  • E-mail to receive messages from anyone they do not know
  • Internet searches for anything other than class purposes
  • Chat rooms for any reason whatsoever
  • Applications that are not educational in nature in some way


A firewall is a device to help protect your computer from hacker attacks. Hackers may try to delete or steal information or make your computer crash. The firewall should always be on.

Operating System Updates

 Updates to a computer's operating system often include security updates. It is a good practice to check for available updates regularly, and to install them when they become available.

Anti-Virus Software

Antivirus technology, updated regularly, helps prevent viruses, worms, and other malicious attacks on your computer. There are significant differences in vulnerability between Windows and Macintosh computers (most of the malice is directed at the Windows operating system). Viruses can be spread in a variety of ways, including using Instant Messaging, Mobile devices, and e-mail.

Anti-Spyware Software

Spyware is software that gets added to your computer, runs in the background, and jeopardizes your privacy and productivity. It often accompanies Internet downloads or Is connected with software that displays advertisements. Anti-spyware technology, which must be updated regularly, helps prevent the installation of spyware on your computer.


Phishing is unauthorized requests for private information, sometimes masking quite effectively as an authorized request, by imitating the true company's logo and style of communication. Legitimate companies never ask for customers or clients to provide personal information such as credit card numbers, passwords, and account information by e-mail.


Spam is unwanted, unsolicited e-mail. The definition is important. You may not want something, but that in itself doesn't make it spam. If you give your e-mail address to a vendor, you may have opened the door yourself.

Spam is often about five topics: sex, enhancement of various body parts, Rolex watches, money, and real estate. Nevertheless, it is possible to stop unwanted e-mail in several ways:

  1. Do not attempt to stop spam by responding to it, even if it offers you a list-removal option.
  2. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may have a spam filter. Look at it and  respond to its sorting • doing this online will prevent e-mail from reaching the school mailboxes. Be diligent about reporting spam, as it is in everyone's interest.
  3. Your e-mail client has a spam filter. Learn how to use it and be diligent about updating filters.
  4. Use a challenge/response system. This system requires that every e-mail that arrives to you be identified by you as welcome. Mailers are greeted with a challenge that will either deter them if they have ill intentions or that they will be unable to complete if they are using a bulk mailing system and not following up on individual e-mails.
  5. Make sure students, faculty, and staff do not reveal their school e-mail addresses.


It is customary to have students and their parents sign off on the school's computer/Internet use rules. Rules should govern:

  • Who may use computers, when, where, and for what purposes.
  • Who may install software on the computers.
  • Whether downloads of any type are allowed and if so, how it will be determined what may be downloaded.
  • How users will protect personal information, including, but not limited to name, social security number, address, phone number, passwords, and photographs; parents' names and phone numbers and place of employment; school name and phone number; and any other identifying information.

Written by Mary Elizabeth.

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