Cyber safety for the new school year


Backpacks full of heavy textbooks are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

Now students are learning in a modern day classroom where more and more of them are toting technology instead with 24/7 access to the internet.

That means parents have to be even more vigilant in making sure those devices are being used safely.

“We obviously filter our web traffic and we do that all the time on the devices the students use. We filter it even when the students are at home. The parents are informed of our policies and procedures and we have online resources for them,” said Scott Jacumin who is the head of Instructional Technology for Union County schools.

The district has what it calls a “1 to 1” initiative which aims to put a laptop in the hands of every student and every teacher. Right now each 6th through 12th grade student takes home a Chrome Book. That’s 24,000 devices and 24,000 reasons to make safety a top priority.

“Also, as a parent too, I try to watch what my child is doing all the time online,” Jacumin added.

WBTV Cyber Expert Theresa Payton says that’s cyber safety step one. She says 24/7 access online means a greater chance someone, or something like a virus, could target your kids or get to their personal information.

“Notice the tale tale signs that something may be wrong. That may mean obsessive checking of the device. On the flip side it could mean sudden withdrawl and not wanting to be anywhere near the device,” Payton said.

She recommends parents set up a safe zone with their children so they know they can talk to mom and dad about anything and you as the parent promise not to overreact.

Technology stores like Best Buy are very busy at this time of year and staff members say people are asking more questions about security than ever. Anti-virus programs like those on the market now can help parents do the job of protecting privacy. Some can integrate with social media sites like Facebook to make sure viruses aren’t sneaking in there, too.

Districts are also helping parents in their efforts.  Like Union County, most schools have technology policies in place.  To see the technology policy for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools click here, and to see the forms students must fill out, click here and look at pages 28-34.

Union County 9th grader Alex is happy to take on some of the responsibility for safety too.

“We have to sign a paper at the beginning of the year that says we do only what the school is telling us to do on our laptops,” she said.

The experts say the sooner the lesson is learned, the safer students will be for a lifetime.