Many of us remember heading to the library to gather books and printed articles for our school projects. Libraries, of course, still hold a wealth of information, but now learners can go beyond the library walls. The internet gives them countless options, but without safeguards in place, there are risks as they search online. Let’s take a look at how students can safely search the internet.
Why it’s necessary for students to search the internet
Whether students are learning remotely or in person, using the internet to gather current facts and evidence is a necessity. Searching the internet allows our learners to become better researchers and evaluate information across multimedia. With the internet, their search for information also spans the globe. As a result, our learners gain access to a wide variety of perspectives and sources outside of their school and community.
Across subjects, educators can add online research into class activities, homework, essays and projects. For example, this women of science internet activity guides learners to visit websites and search for information. With these types of activities, learners can work independently or collaboratively to gather research online.
Why internet safety for students is important
The internet contains endless websites, content and ways to communicate. It’s vital then for educators to be aware of any dangers and protect learners. Here are issues below that students may come across as they search online.
Without barriers in place, our students may see text, images or inappropriate videos for their age. As students work online, they should only be able to look at content that helps them with learning.
Harmful and violent content
When learners type a keyword into a search bar, anything can pop up, including websites with harmful or violent content. An internet search can bring up videos, message boards, blogs or social media posts with toxic messaging.
In 2018 the Pew Center reported that 58% of American teens had experienced cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when someone shares or posts harmful or false content about someone else, causing humiliation. On the internet, it can happen through social media, online chatting, message boards or gaming apps.
We all become distracted at times when searching online, so it’s easy for students to lose focus and wander over to websites unrelated to learning. Social media, gaming or gambling websites can keep students from learning and even lead to unhealthy behavior.
Hacking, malware, phishing, oversharing
When learners search online, they can be vulnerable to having their private information stolen. The online network can be hacked or they may click on a malicious website, which installs malware on a learner’s device or phishes for private information. Learners may also unknowingly over share their own private information online through website forms or online communication.
When learners navigate online, search engines and social media track their browsing history. Then by tracking their interests and online behavior, the search engine or social media platform shows learners ads targeted directly to them.
How educators can keep students safe on the internet
How can students safely search the internet for class activities? There are several ways that school communities can protect learners.
Digital citizenship, online safety and 21st-century skills instruction
As learners research online, they need to understand how to evaluate information and take personal responsibility for their online habits. Being able to form questions, explore safely, take time to research facts and cite sources will help learners in school and beyond.
Curriculum and class activities that focus on digital citizenship, internet safety for students and 21st-century skills encourage them to make responsible digital decisions. Educators can develop curriculum as teams and roll it out across the school. It’s also helpful to have conversations with students in the moment if an issue comes up.
Responsible Use Policies
Responsible Use Policies (RUPs) outline how learners and staff across the school or district should use technology and the internet. These policies are created with input from stakeholders across the school community and are focused on digital citizenship and positive expectations.
By helping learners understand how to take accountability when searching online, they are more likely to make healthy decisions. It’s important for the RUP language to be kid-friendly, though, so learners understand the expectations.
How students can safely search the internet also depends on the tools a school or district uses. A web filter blocks categories of websites or specific URLs. Web filters can also block ads, and some are able to track cyberbullying. A web filter is essential and the first line of protection to help students safely search the internet.
Educators can also use monitoring tools to keep learners focused so they don’t veer off course using the internet. Monitoring tools allow teachers to keep tabs on their students’ online activity so they stay safe. Online monitoring helps make sure learners stay focused on class work rather than interact with inappropriate, threatening or distracting websites.
How students can safely search the internet with Hāpara Filter
AI technology with real-time analysis
Hāpara Filter is a powerful web filter that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze content on the internet in real-time. In addition to blocked and allowed website lists, Hāpara Filter adds an extra layer of protection.
As students search online, this K-12 web filter understands context and immediately blurs text, images, or parts of harmful or inappropriate videos. That means students can gather information safely and use more websites for learning. For example, as a student watches a YouTube video, Hāpara Filter will blur or mute content when needed.
Hāpara Filter also focuses on student privacy by anonymizing student Google searches, preventing tracking and blocking ads.
Digital citizenship feature
Hāpara Filter is also more comprehensive than other web filters because it builds learners’ digital citizenship skills. If a student searches the internet and comes across a blocked website that will help them with a project or assignment, they can submit an unblock request.
The request is sent to the teacher, and from there, the teacher can choose to unblock the website without needing to go through the information technology department. With this feature, students can take control of their own learning and make responsible choices about safely searching the internet.
Student wellness feature
Hāpara Filter also has a student wellness feature to keep students safe when searching the internet. Schools and districts can choose to add on this feature to protect students from issues such as self-harm or cyberbullying. The feature alerts selected educators when students search online and show at-risk behavior. Educators can then immediately take action to help students.
How students can safely search the internet with Hāpara Highlights
Personalized guided browsing
Hāpara Highlights is a Chrome browser monitoring tool that helps students safely search the internet. With Highlights, teachers can guide learners as they use the internet for class activities. Teachers can start learners with access to a specific set of websites and then gradually give them more browsing independence.
Educators can also personalize the internet search experience for groups of students or individual learners. Some students may need more guidance, while others may be ready for more responsibility. Recently, new updates were added to Highlights to make it even more user-friendly.
Digital citizenship development
Because Highlights gives teachers a view into student browsing activities, they can help learners develop their digital citizenship skills in the moment. The Highlights private messaging feature allows teachers to send encouragement or reminders to refocus. Oak Grove Elementary School in South Carolina uses Highlights to teach digital citizenship skills and help learners create healthier online habits.