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Protecting Your Students and Devices During Winter Break

Protecting Your Students and Devices during Winter Break

Over the past decade, but especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology in classrooms has become commonplace, changing the way students learn and interact with information. As this shift has occurred, and schools have begun regularly offering devices for students to take home, the risk of allowing students to take devices off campus has been a growing consideration. When students take a school-issued device off campus, schools are less able to monitor and regulate its usage. Putting device and cyber safeguards in place for school-issued devices is critical to protecting both students and schools. As we approach the holidays and winter break, now is the time to review your device protocols to ensure your student devices are winter break ready. Here are a few steps you can take today:

  1. Activate and Maintain Firewalls

One of the fundamental steps to enhance cyber safety is ensuring hardware firewalls are turned on and active on all devices. Firewalls act as a barrier between your device and potential online threats, helping to prevent unauthorized access and malicious activities. Schools should implement strict policies to ensure hardware firewalls remain activated at all times, especially when connected to non-school Wi-Fi networks. 

  1. Implement Search Filters and Keyword Monitoring

To create a safe online environment, schools should leverage search filters and keyword monitoring tools. These tools can be configured to block access to inappropriate content and monitor students' online activities for concerning words or topics. Setting up notifications for flagged content enables timely identification and intervention, allowing  school teams to address potential issues quickly.

  1. Restrict User Access to Settings

It's imperative to restrict access in the student device settings, including firewalls and search filter settings mentioned above. By limiting the ability of students and staff to modify these configurations, schools can maintain consistent and effective cyber safety measures. Establishing strict controls ensures that the predefined security protocols remain intact, reducing the risk of accidental or intentional circumvention of safety features.

  1. Regularly Update Security Software

Technology evolves rapidly, and so do cyber threats. Staying vigilant by keeping all security software up-to-date through regular updates and patches ensures that devices are equipped with the latest protection against emerging threats, making it harder for malicious entities to exploit vulnerabilities. 

  1. Provide Cyber Safety Education

In addition to technical measures, continuing education for students about cyber safety is always recommended. Incorporating cyber safety awareness programs into the curriculum can empower students with the knowledge to navigate the digital world responsibly. This education, also known as digital citizenship, should cover topics such as recognizing online threats, understanding the importance of privacy, and promoting ethical online behavior. Reminders, infographics, and short in-classroom lessons provided to students before extended break times can help remind them of best practices. In addition to students, sending information out to parents before breaks about the protocols in place and how they can support their student(s) while they use devices can help foster a safe cyber environment both inside and outside of the classroom. 

By implementing these measures and staying proactive, schools can promote equitable and secure technology use for their students for joyful academic engagement over the Winter Break.

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