The spread of COVID-19 has forced school closures across the United States, resulting in many districts making a sudden and complete transition to online schooling that they may or may not have been fully prepared to make. While some schools have already had online offerings for their students for some years now, for others this is an entirely new prospect, and for almost all of them they have never given online instruction on anywhere near this scale.
With millions of children suddenly relying on online platforms for school, the FBI has issued warnings to families and educators about the possibilities of online exploitation by sexual predators.
Here’s what you should know.
FBI urges educators, parents to practice internet safety
The biggest recommendation coming from the Bureau is that parents and educators should teach their children and students about the risks that exist online and the signs of potential predatory behavior, right from the start of using the internet for online schooling. It is important for children to know how they can stay safe and the boundaries they should maintain, while still being encouraged to use the technology that’s available to have open communication with trusted adults.
The FBI says predators often try to make casual contact with minors online and slowly work to gain their trust before introducing sexual elements to the conversation. They might use online platforms then to coerce the children into sharing explicit photo or video.
Parents and adults should have clear discussions of internet safety with their children, and should always review any apps or games children will use before they download them. Parents should also maintain strict privacy settings on phones, tablets and devices, and should monitor their children’s internet use as much as possible.
One tool schools have been using to great success is securely.com, an app that can be downloaded to give parents and educators information about students’ activity online. It will detect everything from inappropriate content to cyberbullying, sexual messaging and self-harm.
The White Hatter organization also offers some excellent resources for parents and educators about some of the most common safety issues that occur while children are browsing the internet and using internet-connected apps.
How Flex Academies ensures the online safety of its students
For Flex Academies, the key to your child’s online safety is the Online Coordinators we have overseeing all of our digital activities.
Anyone who attempts to log into an activity or course must authenticate with the Online Coordinator. The OLC checks to make sure the person’s name is on the roster and that they have provided the correct entry code. All participants must also show their face before they are allowed to enter, otherwise they will be denied.
This is an actual person who is tasked with maintaining security of all these programs, much like the On-Site Coordinator in our standard Flex Academies offerings at schools. This means you don’t have to worry about a potential predator tricking a system or exploiting digital vulnerabilities to gain access to an online activity.
For more information about how we maintain strong online safety practices with our Flex Academies ONE programming, contact us today.