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Category: Articles for Parents / Educators

Which States Are Doing the Most to Fight Cyberbullying?

Keeping kids safe online while learning

In many ways, the internet is a great learning tool and can be wonderful for connecting children with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, there is also plenty of inappropriate content, and online social networks can give other kids a forum for teasing and bullying.

Currently, there are only a few federal protections to keep minors safe online—the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) being the most prominent.

The good news is, states have the power to rein in bullying and inappropriate interactions that happen in the digital sphere—and several are going above and beyond to keep kids safe online. Here’s a closer look at which states are doing the most to keep their young residents protected while learning on the internet.

States Taking Action

Many states have implemented some combination of laws specifically addressing cyberbullying (at school and otherwise), online harassment, and texting inappropriate content (known as “sexting”). But nine states have doubled down on establishing protections for kids online:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Connecticut
  3. Florida
  4. Georgia
  5. Kansas
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. South Dakota
  8. Texas
  9. Utah

These states have taken clear legislative action against both cyberbullying—bullying, belittling, or harassment that occurs via digital means like social media or texting—and inappropriate texting with minors.

In Arkansas, schools are required to institute and enforce anti-bullying policies. Schools must also offer group conflict resolution services for students and training for teachers to learn how to recognize bullying.

Connecticut is a leader when it comes to cyber-bullying policies and resources for students and teachers. In addition to the laws put in place by Arkansas, Connecticut school districts also have strategies for including parents of both the student who was bullied and the student(s) doing the bullying to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Texas also has a strict policy that covers all these bases, though protections for specific classes aren’t clearly delineated.

The state of Florida includes a process for involving families in cyberbullying situations. It also requires districts to keep a list of programs that can offer training for school staff, parents, and students on how to identify and react to online harassment. Like Texas, specific groups aren’t called out in the laws, but state-funded schools are still held to federal anti-discrimination rules.

While the requirements in Georgia do not include training for school personnel, the state has implemented character education programs for all grade levels and includes off-campus cyberbullying directed toward students or school personnel in their laws and regulations.

Laws in Kansas don’t include off-campus incidents, but they do require training for educators and staff on navigating bullying situations. And Pennsylvania and Utah include everything except offering mental health support for students who have been bullied, even going so far as to require regular policy reviews and to involve families in policy creation, respectively.

South Dakota’s laws focus on responding to bullying as it happens, and while there aren’t plans in place for prevention or family involvement, the state does offer immunity for reporting bullying.

Additionally, all nine of these states have laws that directly address minors sending and receiving inappropriate content via text.

What Can Parents Do?

Regardless of what state you live in, there are some basic precautions you can take to keep kids safe online.

  1. Educate yourself on what dangers are out there and how to identify them.
  2. Figure out where your state stands on online privacy and safety for minors.
  3. Monitor your children when they’re using the internet, keep computers in common rooms, and set up restrictions to keep your kids off message boards, chat rooms, etc. until they’re old enough to engage responsibly.

Last but not least, have a conversation with your children about the importance of being careful with personal information and the potential risks of being online.

In many ways, the internet is a great learning tool and can be wonderful for connecting children with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, there is also plenty of inappropriate content, and online social networks can give other kids a forum for teasing and bullying.

Currently, there are only a few federal protections to keep minors safe online—the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) being the most prominent.

The good news is, states have the power to rein in bullying and inappropriate interactions that happen in the digital sphere—and several are going above and beyond to keep kids safe online. Here’s a closer look at which states are doing the most to keep their young residents protected while learning on the internet.

States Taking Action

Many states have implemented some combination of laws specifically addressing cyberbullying (at school and otherwise), online harassment, and texting inappropriate content (known as “sexting”). But nine states have doubled down on establishing protections for kids online:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Connecticut
  3. Florida
  4. Georgia
  5. Kansas
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. South Dakota
  8. Texas
  9. Utah

These states have taken clear legislative action against both cyberbullying—bullying, belittling, or harassment that occurs via digital means like social media or texting—and inappropriate texting with minors.

In Arkansas, schools are required to institute and enforce anti-bullying policies. Schools must also offer group conflict resolution services for students and training for teachers to learn how to recognize bullying.

Connecticut is a leader when it comes to cyber-bullying policies and resources for students and teachers. In addition to the laws put in place by Arkansas, Connecticut school districts also have strategies for including parents of both the student who was bullied and the student(s) doing the bullying to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Texas also has a strict policy that covers all these bases, though protections for specific classes aren’t clearly delineated.

The state of Florida includes a process for involving families in cyberbullying situations. It also requires districts to keep a list of programs that can offer training for school staff, parents, and students on how to identify and react to online harassment. Like Texas, specific groups aren’t called out in the laws, but state-funded schools are still held to federal anti-discrimination rules.

While the requirements in Georgia do not include training for school personnel, the state has implemented character education programs for all grade levels and includes off-campus cyberbullying directed toward students or school personnel in their laws and regulations.

Laws in Kansas don’t include off-campus incidents, but they do require training for educators and staff on navigating bullying situations. And Pennsylvania and Utah include everything except offering mental health support for students who have been bullied, even going so far as to require regular policy reviews and to involve families in policy creation, respectively.

South Dakota’s laws focus on responding to bullying as it happens, and while there aren’t plans in place for prevention or family involvement, the state does offer immunity for reporting bullying.

Additionally, all nine of these states have laws that directly address minors sending and receiving inappropriate content via text.

What Can Parents Do?

Regardless of what state you live in, there are some basic precautions you can take to keep kids safe online.

  1. Educate yourself on what dangers are out there and how to identify them.
  2. Figure out where your state stands on online privacy and safety for minors.
  3. Monitor your children when they’re using the internet, keep computers in common rooms, and set up restrictions to keep your kids off message boards, chat rooms, etc. until they’re old enough to engage responsibly.

Last but not least, have a conversation with your children about the importance of being careful with personal information and the potential risks of being online.

How Can School Counselors Use Digital Technology to Make Schools Safer

school counselors digital technology safety

For decades, school administrators have worked to make school buildings safer. They have done so by locking doors, adding security systems and cameras, hiring law enforcement staff, and installing metal detectors.

Over 90% of schools in the U.S. have security cameras to help staff monitor the school and surrounding area more closely.  And, in 2016 alone, schools spent $2.7 billion on security systems. One year later, the amount spent almost doubled.

Besides video surveillance, almost 80% of schools track their visitors by asking them to sign into the front desk.

Sure, it’s essential to keep all the outside doors of a school locked and take note of who is in your building, but not all threats are face to face.  We live in a digital world.  And, a lot of your preventative maintenance needs to take place in that same cyber environment. 

So, when threats are made, schools need to right tools to spread the word to teachers and staff quickly. Here are some ideas you may want to try to keep your school safe.

Social Net Watcher

School shooters tend to be narcissists. They often use social media, especially Instagram, to proclaim their manifestos.

One start-up out of Indiana, Social Net Watcher, watches students’ social media accounts for specific phrases that may indicate warnings of violence. They can also be programmed to alert school officials to acts of cyberbullying.

TextMagic

In an emergency, fast communication is essential. TextMagic allows schools to send immediate texts to the staff, students, or parents at the touch of a button.

Texts are the most effective form of communication in an emergency. Teachers may not have access to their computers while they are barricaded in their classrooms.

TextMagic can also be used to alert parents if their children are not in attendance. Parents who may be concerned about the mental health of their children can be warned immediately that their child is not where he is supposed to be. 

Visitor Management System

While most schools have visitors sign in at the reception desk, some schools are taking this precaution to the next level.

Visitors at some schools must present their state or federal ID to the school. These IDs are checked against a national database of registered sex offenders.

Alertus Desktop

Although text messaging is the most effective form of communication during an emergency, at times, a back-up plan is needed. Alertus Desktop can send an immediate alert to every computer screen on campus. This system is particularly helpful for buildings that have notoriously bad cell coverage.

Take a look at what Gordon College learned by implementing Alertus Desktop.  The school felt that its checklist for notifications in emergency systems was too long.  And, It wanted one unified system for keeping people informed.  

The college reports that its decision to streamline communications was extremely beneficial.  “Being able to setup pre-scripted alerts to fire off with one button press or one-click during a crisis can help save lives during an emergency.”

Facial Recognition Software

Although there may be privacy concerns from using biometric data on a school campus, some districts are willing to overlook this opinion to keep their students safe. Programs such as RealNetworks is 98% accurate, and this software will alert school officials if someone of concern is on campus.

GPS Systems

Schools not only need to keep students safe on campus, but they also need to protect their students on buses as well. GPS systems are so sophisticated now that the district will be notified if a driver is reckless.

This software has the added benefit of protecting the school from parent complaints. If parents complain that the bus did not pick up their children that morning, the district can check the GPS to see whether or not the driver really missed the stop.

Edgewood Independent School District in Texas utilized this technology on its fleet of school buses. The system proved beneficial when the local sheriff was able to send the closest officer immediately to a driver who needed assistance.

Safety and Security Film

The doors of a school may be locked, but that doesn’t mean that school shooters can’t break into a building through a window. An American company now has made a thin film that can be placed over the windows of a school building to keep them from breaking.

Fortify the windows of your school with this 3M product. This product will enable responders to have more time to arrive in the event of an emergency.

Conclusion

Schools have the moral and legal responsibility to keep their students safe.

Even though some schools have metal detectors at the door, 7% of high schoolers reported being hurt or threatened with a weapon on school property within the last year.

Even though safety measures have been utilized, nearly 6% of high schoolers have reported that they stayed home from school because they did not feel safe.

What that means to you as an administrator at a school is you need to maximize your resources.  Explore these different options. Then, start to implement  some of these digital technologies and other strategies to keep your school safe.

For decades, school administrators have worked to make school buildings safer. They have done so by locking doors, adding security systems and cameras, hiring law enforcement staff, and installing metal detectors.

Over 90% of schools in the U.S. have security cameras to help staff monitor the school and surrounding area more closely.  And, in 2016 alone, schools spent $2.7 billion on security systems. One year later, the amount spent almost doubled.

Besides video surveillance, almost 80% of schools track their visitors by asking them to sign into the front desk.

Sure, it’s essential to keep all the outside doors of a school locked and take note of who is in your building, but not all threats are face to face.  We live in a digital world.  And, a lot of your preventative maintenance needs to take place in that same cyber environment. 

So, when threats are made, schools need to right tools to spread the word to teachers and staff quickly. Here are some ideas you may want to try to keep your school safe.

Social Net Watcher

School shooters tend to be narcissists. They often use social media, especially Instagram, to proclaim their manifestos.

One start-up out of Indiana, Social Net Watcher, watches students’ social media accounts for specific phrases that may indicate warnings of violence. They can also be programmed to alert school officials to acts of cyberbullying.

TextMagic

In an emergency, fast communication is essential. TextMagic allows schools to send immediate texts to the staff, students, or parents at the touch of a button.

Texts are the most effective form of communication in an emergency. Teachers may not have access to their computers while they are barricaded in their classrooms.

TextMagic can also be used to alert parents if their children are not in attendance. Parents who may be concerned about the mental health of their children can be warned immediately that their child is not where he is supposed to be. 

Visitor Management System

While most schools have visitors sign in at the reception desk, some schools are taking this precaution to the next level.

Visitors at some schools must present their state or federal ID to the school. These IDs are checked against a national database of registered sex offenders.

Alertus Desktop

Although text messaging is the most effective form of communication during an emergency, at times, a back-up plan is needed. Alertus Desktop can send an immediate alert to every computer screen on campus. This system is particularly helpful for buildings that have notoriously bad cell coverage.

Take a look at what Gordon College learned by implementing Alertus Desktop.  The school felt that its checklist for notifications in emergency systems was too long.  And, It wanted one unified system for keeping people informed.  

The college reports that its decision to streamline communications was extremely beneficial.  “Being able to setup pre-scripted alerts to fire off with one button press or one-click during a crisis can help save lives during an emergency.”

Facial Recognition Software

Although there may be privacy concerns from using biometric data on a school campus, some districts are willing to overlook this opinion to keep their students safe. Programs such as RealNetworks is 98% accurate, and this software will alert school officials if someone of concern is on campus.

GPS Systems

Schools not only need to keep students safe on campus, but they also need to protect their students on buses as well. GPS systems are so sophisticated now that the district will be notified if a driver is reckless.

This software has the added benefit of protecting the school from parent complaints. If parents complain that the bus did not pick up their children that morning, the district can check the GPS to see whether or not the driver really missed the stop.

Edgewood Independent School District in Texas utilized this technology on its fleet of school buses. The system proved beneficial when the local sheriff was able to send the closest officer immediately to a driver who needed assistance.

Safety and Security Film

The doors of a school may be locked, but that doesn’t mean that school shooters can’t break into a building through a window. An American company now has made a thin film that can be placed over the windows of a school building to keep them from breaking.

Fortify the windows of your school with this 3M product. This product will enable responders to have more time to arrive in the event of an emergency.

Conclusion

Schools have the moral and legal responsibility to keep their students safe.

Even though some schools have metal detectors at the door, 7% of high schoolers reported being hurt or threatened with a weapon on school property within the last year.

Even though safety measures have been utilized, nearly 6% of high schoolers have reported that they stayed home from school because they did not feel safe.

What that means to you as an administrator at a school is you need to maximize your resources.  Explore these different options. Then, start to implement  some of these digital technologies and other strategies to keep your school safe.

How to Ensure Internet Safety for Kids

App Use Safety for Kids

Almost everyone owns an electronic gadget, and the internet has become part of our daily life. While the internet furnishes us with a wealth of information and convenience, it can be a liability, especially to children. Some reports say that approximately 34% of kids have experienced cyberbullying online!

Because of these startling stats, it’s never been more important for every parent to ensure internet safety for kids. Fortunately, there are different ways of safeguard your child’s internet safety.

Below are tips on how to protect your kid on the internet, including a helpful info graphic.

1. Train Them About Online Threats

Teach your children on the many online perils. For instance, let them know why it’s risky to converse with strangers online. Educate them on the sites which contain inappropriate information and let them know why they shouldn’t share personal information online. If your child doesn’t require a phone, speak to them about getting rid of their gadgets. Besides, there are many places you can sell your iPhone for cash.

2. Know How to Use a Computer

While this might seem odd, it works for most parents. It’s surprising how children know much about the family computer than even the parents. The first step to ensuring internet safety for kids is by becoming computer literate.

This way, you can monitor what your kid does online and block specific sites containing inappropriate information with ease. More so, you can access our child’s internet history to ensure that they aren’t surfing in the wrong places. You can do all this when you know how to use a computer.

3. Acquire Monitoring Software

Parents should control their children’s access to the internet, and you can achieve this with the use of control software. You can even install it discreetly without their knowledge. With such software, you can track all their movements online, including messages, chats as well as websites visited.

Take Away

There are various reasons why internet safety is important. With the many risks online, parents have a right to get concerned.  It’s your role as a parent to ensure internet safety for kids. Therefore, teach them on the many online dangers, learn how to use electronic gadgets, and, if possible, get parental control software.

Infographic: Most Dangerous Apps for Kids

Read about some safe apps for kids.

Almost everyone owns an electronic gadget, and the internet has become part of our daily life. While the internet furnishes us with a wealth of information and convenience, it can be a liability, especially to children. Some reports say that approximately 34% of kids have experienced cyberbullying online!

Because of these startling stats, it’s never been more important for every parent to ensure internet safety for kids. Fortunately, there are different ways of safeguard your child’s internet safety.

Below are tips on how to protect your kid on the internet, including a helpful info graphic.

1. Train Them About Online Threats

Teach your children on the many online perils. For instance, let them know why it’s risky to converse with strangers online. Educate them on the sites which contain inappropriate information and let them know why they shouldn’t share personal information online. If your child doesn’t require a phone, speak to them about getting rid of their gadgets. Besides, there are many places you can sell your iPhone for cash.

2. Know How to Use a Computer

While this might seem odd, it works for most parents. It’s surprising how children know much about the family computer than even the parents. The first step to ensuring internet safety for kids is by becoming computer literate.

This way, you can monitor what your kid does online and block specific sites containing inappropriate information with ease. More so, you can access our child’s internet history to ensure that they aren’t surfing in the wrong places. You can do all this when you know how to use a computer.

3. Acquire Monitoring Software

Parents should control their children’s access to the internet, and you can achieve this with the use of control software. You can even install it discreetly without their knowledge. With such software, you can track all their movements online, including messages, chats as well as websites visited.

Take Away

There are various reasons why internet safety is important. With the many risks online, parents have a right to get concerned.  It’s your role as a parent to ensure internet safety for kids. Therefore, teach them on the many online dangers, learn how to use electronic gadgets, and, if possible, get parental control software.

Infographic: Most Dangerous Apps for Kids

Read about some safe apps for kids.

The Ultimate University Guide for Parents

Parents Guide to Preparing Students for University

Now that university is back in full swing, you will have noticed students in every corner of the city. This may instill some fear into you, especially if your child is in their last year of school and planning to head to university. You may have some worries about them leaving or home, or whether they will get a place in the university of their dreams.

Whatever the case, you need to start preparing for your child’s future in university, as this move will affect them as well as you. Take a look at these tips which will help you assist your child with the next step of their education.

One of the hardest decisions your child will have to make is which university course is right for them, as this will define their future career. Parents tend to have a big say on this, as some would prefer their child to stay closer to home, while others are adamant that their offspring will attend a prestigious university. Both can offer your child clouded judgement, as they may end up at university they don’t enjoy or take on a course that provides them with little to no job opportunities.

Choosing a Course

Instead, you and your child should conduct thorough research on UCAS where you can look into subjects that he or she finds enjoyable or will excel at, while also taking note of the employment prospects. You should avoid just focusing on the course overview, as this will only provide you with a generalized description.

Most universities lay out each module for individual courses to help the potential students decide if its right for them, and whether the entry requirements suit them. If they can relate to any of the skills or experience mentioned on the course, they can use this to their advantage in their personal statement. Before making a final decision, you should try to choose three universities where you can attend open days with your child to help them choose up to five universities to apply for.

The Application Process

After researching courses and selecting the top five universities, you can then commence with the UCAS application. This consists of everything from your child’s education to work experience, along with a personal statement of 4,000 characters which is used to promote your child’s key skills, knowledge and work experience in support of their application. Once it has been sent off, your child will receive a notification whether they have an offer. If they receive a conditional offer, they will have to wait until they receive their results to find out, whereas if they are granted an unconditional offer, they will have secured a place immediately.

If your child is lucky enough to be approved of all five, they must decide which university is right for them and decline the remaining four. This is a hard decision to make, so make sure you and your child sit down and discuss their options before confirming where they want to attend. Don’t worry if your child does not get any of their choices, as there is always the opportunity to get place through Clearing, which enables students to find a last-minute course that aligns with their grades.

Funding Options

Once your child’s place at university is secure you can then start looking into finances. The majority of students tend to receive funding from student finance, where they can apply for living expenses and tuition fees, which are now charged a standard rate of £9,250. Your child may receive a maintenance loan or grant, but this will all depend on your income, as student finance takes into account the parents or guardians financial situation and their ability to support their child.

So basically, the less you earn the more financial support your child will get. You must input all the right information when applying for student finance, as the application may be rejected if the information is incorrect. Make sure you do not take too long with this, as the deadline is around May or June time, and if you do not submit in time, your child’s financial aid will be severely delayed.

Finding the Right Accommodation

Some parents wait to see how much their child is awarded before they can find somewhere for them live, while this is financial responsibility it can actually result in slim pickings. The majority of first-year students living in student halls, however, others do opt for private student accommodation. Some of the best purpose-built student accommodation is located in central areas, such as the RW Invest developments which are located next to some of the UK’s top universities. These provide students with comfortable and sociable living spaces, which include high-quality bedrooms, common area and even gym facilities.

Now that university is back in full swing, you will have noticed students in every corner of the city. This may instill some fear into you, especially if your child is in their last year of school and planning to head to university. You may have some worries about them leaving or home, or whether they will get a place in the university of their dreams.

Whatever the case, you need to start preparing for your child’s future in university, as this move will affect them as well as you. Take a look at these tips which will help you assist your child with the next step of their education.

One of the hardest decisions your child will have to make is which university course is right for them, as this will define their future career. Parents tend to have a big say on this, as some would prefer their child to stay closer to home, while others are adamant that their offspring will attend a prestigious university. Both can offer your child clouded judgement, as they may end up at university they don’t enjoy or take on a course that provides them with little to no job opportunities.

Choosing a Course

Instead, you and your child should conduct thorough research on UCAS where you can look into subjects that he or she finds enjoyable or will excel at, while also taking note of the employment prospects. You should avoid just focusing on the course overview, as this will only provide you with a generalized description.

Most universities lay out each module for individual courses to help the potential students decide if its right for them, and whether the entry requirements suit them. If they can relate to any of the skills or experience mentioned on the course, they can use this to their advantage in their personal statement. Before making a final decision, you should try to choose three universities where you can attend open days with your child to help them choose up to five universities to apply for.

The Application Process

After researching courses and selecting the top five universities, you can then commence with the UCAS application. This consists of everything from your child’s education to work experience, along with a personal statement of 4,000 characters which is used to promote your child’s key skills, knowledge and work experience in support of their application. Once it has been sent off, your child will receive a notification whether they have an offer. If they receive a conditional offer, they will have to wait until they receive their results to find out, whereas if they are granted an unconditional offer, they will have secured a place immediately.

If your child is lucky enough to be approved of all five, they must decide which university is right for them and decline the remaining four. This is a hard decision to make, so make sure you and your child sit down and discuss their options before confirming where they want to attend. Don’t worry if your child does not get any of their choices, as there is always the opportunity to get place through Clearing, which enables students to find a last-minute course that aligns with their grades.

Funding Options

Once your child’s place at university is secure you can then start looking into finances. The majority of students tend to receive funding from student finance, where they can apply for living expenses and tuition fees, which are now charged a standard rate of £9,250. Your child may receive a maintenance loan or grant, but this will all depend on your income, as student finance takes into account the parents or guardians financial situation and their ability to support their child.

So basically, the less you earn the more financial support your child will get. You must input all the right information when applying for student finance, as the application may be rejected if the information is incorrect. Make sure you do not take too long with this, as the deadline is around May or June time, and if you do not submit in time, your child’s financial aid will be severely delayed.

Finding the Right Accommodation

Some parents wait to see how much their child is awarded before they can find somewhere for them live, while this is financial responsibility it can actually result in slim pickings. The majority of first-year students living in student halls, however, others do opt for private student accommodation. Some of the best purpose-built student accommodation is located in central areas, such as the RW Invest developments which are located next to some of the UK’s top universities. These provide students with comfortable and sociable living spaces, which include high-quality bedrooms, common area and even gym facilities.