Who’s Responsible for Teaching Online Safety?

Educators believe online safety, security and ethics should be taught in the nation’s schools, but many doubt their districts are doing an adequate job in preparing them for this task. That’s one of the key takeaways from a new study released by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

The survey, State of K-12 Cyberethics, Cybersafety, and Cybersecurity Curriculum in the United States, concludes that schools are not preparing students for the digital age.

“Kids and teens have embraced the digital world with great intensity, spending as many as eight hours a day online by some estimates,” explains Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. “Yet America’s schools have not caught up with the realities of the modern economy.”

“Every school district should have a comprehensive cybersecurity curriculum in place. Schools should be confident that they are graduating students who can use technology safely, securely and productively, and this training should begin at an early age, from the point when a child first enters school,” Kaiser said.

Schools lack of preparedness in teaching online safety and ethics, adds Kaisers, is not due to unwillingness on the part of educators or their districts. Still, the survey does reveal a disconnect between the two over a few key issues.

For example, 51 percent of teachers say the district is doing an inadequate job of preparing students for the digital age. More than 80 percent of administrators and IT coordinators surveyed, on the other hand, believe districts are doing enough.

Only one–third of teachers believe “cyberethics curriculum” is a requirement in their district, whereas 70 percent of administrators believe it is a requirement.

The study also found that more than one-third of teachers received zero hours of professional development by their district in issues pertaining to online safety. online security, etc.

“Many teachers are not getting the training they need,” Kaiser says, “but the survey shows very strongly that they are interested in getting the necessary professional development.”

One area of agreement revealed by the survey is how parents can contribute. Both teachers and administrators believe parents need to play a much larger role in preparing their children in being safe and secure online. Seventy-nine percent of teachers say parents should be primarily responsible.

Given the enormous burdens placed on the nations’ public schools, not to mention dwindling resources, shouldering educators with another task that can also be taught at home is bound to encounter resistance. Is it really the schools that are not meeting this responsibility?

“There’s no question that parents have to step up as well in the home,” sys Kaiser. “But ultimately, teaching our students to be safe online has to be a shared responsibility and schools can meet the challenge and take the lead. Teachers have the dedication – what many of them need now is the support.”


For more information on how educators can help students stay safe online, visit bNetSavvy.org