Top tips for internet safety: helping school counselors respond to online conflicts & protect internet safety
29th March 2017
It could be described as an almost-perfect storm: Rates of depression, suicide and bullying are at all time highs among teens and young adults in the United States and there are not nearly enough mental health professionals to meet the demand. A recent study by the Mental Health Association (MHA) in Virginia shows that in states with the lowest workforce, there is just one professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor or psychiatric nurse) per 1,000 individuals. Here are more statistics that show that the need for student support is on the rise:
- Suicide rates have reached a 30 year all-time high in the United States
- Rates of youth depression rose from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 11.1 percent in 2014 and
- In cases of severe depression, 80 percent of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment, according to the MHA.
- An overview of nine years of cyberbullying articles, published in the Universal Journal of Educational Research calls cyberbullying an “increasingly serious public mental health problem with sometimes devastating consequences” that affects school staff and students.
With such a dramatic rise in issues related to health and safety, school counselors play a crucial role in helping students find support when they need it, which in turn helps students to stay in school and on the road to recovery if they are coping with issues such as bullying, eating disorders, violence in relationships, LGBT concerns, drugs, substance misuse, grooming or pornography.
Top tips for internet safety
Here are our top tips for internet safety focused on educating, advocating and mobilizing to offer support and resolve conflicts:
Know key words and phrases students are using online
Impero partners with a variety of nonprofit organizations to continually update our products, including our flagship product, Impero Education Pro, with a keyword library that helps educators and guidance counselors detect issues taking place within the school network. Keyword libraries feature a combination of words, phrases, acronyms and abbreviations commonly used by vulnerable students. Once an alert is created, school counselors can see students’ comments and searches and decide on how the situation should be addressed. In this era of social media, students reactions to a comment or incident online quickly escalate. Guidance counselors and school administrators should be pro-active with information gleaned from the network about a student and explore the issue with a student – even if the student has not approached them for help with online internet safety issues.
Start talking about common issues and solutions at your school before there is a crisis
The American School Counselor Association recommends that every school district should develop a policy regarding cyberbullying and explains the legal standard of care as “working with students in crisis until the crisis is resolved”, stating also that “ethically educators cannot be unresponsive to this potentially deadly form of bullying”. It’s true that the bulk of cyberbullying happens on teens’ private accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter. However, it’s likely that social media conflicts will spill over into school-time conversations. Impero Education Pro offers guidance counselors the ability to detect and capture screenshots and keywords of an incident, along with glossary definitions, which enables them to put an incident into context with the student’s wider online and offline behavior. For more on best practices, see our infographic and short video.
Encourage good digital citizenship
Students today don’t often distinguish between ‘online’ and ‘in person’ behaviors. School counselors should encourage kids to be their authentic selves online and off and to recognize that, although we don’t speak in 140 characters or hashtags, our online behaviors are not short-lived. Often, what kids are talking about online spills over into the classroom. Impero Education Pro has the ability to scan a school’s network to identify when key terms associated with adult content, bullying, trolling, eating disorders, grooming, drug use, race or religious hatred, self-harm or suicide and more, have been typed or viewed. This helps counselors to spot vulnerable students who are potentially at risk and to communicate their concerns to others.
Mobilize communities and families to help
The work of supporting students requires a coordinated effort. Home life, feeling like a part of a community and learning self-advocacy strategies are all crucial to success, according to experts on internet safety for kids. One recent survey by Above the Fray, a digital citizenship advocacy group, showed that nearly half of all students surveyed (answers ranged from 43% to 49%) would ask for help from an adult if they felt threatened, harassed or bullied. With real-time monitoring, counsellors are able to identify issues that would not come to light if digital access was completely blocked in a school setting.
Open the door for success
Using positive, solution-focused interventions in schools is often the best approach for counselors who need to act quickly and often handle large numbers of cases. Both listening and collaborating to develop a plan of action are key, according to a report published in counseling.org. Small goals that are positively framed and specific in nature are helpful in situations where students are able to actively problem solve.
You can find more information on specific topics, such as sexual grooming, self-harm and cyberbullying in our case studies here. From more on how schools can monitor online behavior and internet safety, watch our video.