Technology has transformed the way teachers work. A few decades ago, the most advanced things in the classroom were a projector and blackboard. Now you can source lesson plans online and unlock virtual resources from students. Also, it’s possible to brainstorm and collaborate with teachers around the world.
As great as the internet is, it does come with its share of downsides. Of them, privacy is the biggest concern. Whether it's a curious student, a nosy administrator, or anybody else, it can often feel like there's no place safe in the online world.
It doesn't have to be true, though. The right combination of strategies and software tools can restore your privacy. You don’t need to sacrifice the connectivity and convenience that the internet offers.
Here are three easy things you can do right now to improve your digital privacy.
1. Change Your Social Media Strategy
Everyone knows that privacy doesn't go hand in hand with social media. But does that mean you have to give up social media because you're a teacher? Haven’t you sacrificed enough already?
It's best to adopt a hybrid strategy. Social media is a great way to stay connected to your school, students, colleagues, and so on. Nothing is stopping you from having two accounts—one for personal use and one for teaching-related things.
It's more important how you manage your personal account. Have you already set it to private? You may also want to make yourself unsearchable. Even with these changes out of the way, now's a good time to review your social media account. If there's anything you wouldn't want a student to see, remove it.
There's no limit to the number of social media profiles you have. If you want real privacy, adopt one with a different handle, profile picture, etc.
Finally, never add a friend or follower unless you can verify the person's identity. You never know when someone has created a fake account for whatever purpose.
2. Improve Your Cyber Security Knowhow
You never know when this comes in handy. Whether you're researching your next lesson plan, drafting a test, or want to keep your data more secure. These strategies apply both to your personal and professional internet usage:
- Never let students see your login credentials, including your username. Ask your school to change your username to something different from your name.
- Start using a VPN. What is a VPN, and what can it do for you? A VPN or virtual private network hides your IP address and encrypts your internet activities. It means nobody can track what you do online. Click here for more: https://nordvpn.com/what-is-a-vpn/
- Use unique and complex passwords. Secure all your online accounts with a different password. If you struggle remembering them, use a password manager.
- Separate your devices. If possible, have different computers for personal and professional use. If not, create two accounts on the same device. Be sure to lock all devices with a six-digit pin code and biometrics. Never leave it unattended.
- Avoid logging into devices other than your own. If you must log into a school computer, use incognito browsing and other privacy tools. Always logout and clear all browsing data when you're finished.
- Use security tools like ad-blockers, antivirus, and encrypted messaging.
- Learn to recognize suspicious websites and emails.
3. Educate Your Students
Students need to know about digital safety and cyber security too. Many of these strategies apply to them, as well. Take a moment to educate them on why it's necessary to protect their privacy online.
You can explain passwords security basics and teach them how to identify potential digital risks. Also, make sure they know that they should never add contacts that they don't recognize.
It’s also an excellent time to teach your students about boundaries. How and when should they contact you? If you have a public social media account, you can give it to them. But explain what's appropriate and what isn't.
If you do this, not only will you be helping yourself but also educate them on how to be responsible citizens of the online world.
Here a few social media do's and don'ts that you apply both for you and your students:
The Do's of Social Media
- Ensure parental consent/opt-out
- Explain how you use social media for the class
- Have a separate professional account
- Review privacy settings on all accounts
- Use tools to edit sensitive information before sharing
- Watch for tags on social media both from students and friends
- Turn off location sharing on all your devices
The Don'ts of Social Media
- Don't use social media at school if it’s against school policies
- Don’t display login information publicly
- Don’t share student names or faces without parental consent
- Don’t forget that handwriting is also identifiable data
- Don’t tolerate cyber-bullying