Safeguarding Learners: The Role of Educators and Social Media

Tuesday, 02 July 2024 |

Safeguarding Learners:
The Role of Educators and Social Media

By Lai Cheng Wong, Communication and Publication Manager
SEAMEO RECSAM (Malaysia)

 

In today’s digital age, social media platforms play a vital role in the lives of our contemporary society. There is no doubt that Southeast Asia is experiencing rapid digital growth, with social media being one of the driving forces behind it.

For instance, Malaysia has the highest social media penetration rate (81%) in Southeast Asia, followed by Singapore (79%); the Philippines (67%); and Indonesia (59%) (World Economic Forum, 2022). These platforms have offered convenience and plenty of new opportunities especially in the way we interact and communicate with each other.

For the education sector, technology and social media not only provide new avenues to teaching and learning, but also a great tool for building connections between schools and learners, and modelling digital citizenship.

Given the profound importance of technology and social media in the field of education, teachers, parents, and guardians must be aware of how to use these tools and platforms safely and effectively.

Teachers can use social media to promote positive learning. Here are three ways to do so:

  1. Share best teaching and learning practices: Teachers can join the online education community and connect with peers to receive feedback and discuss best practices and pedagogies.
  2. Provide an authentic audience for their students’ work: Simple posts showing children’s work may prompt discussions at home and strengthen the link between learning at school and learning at home.
  3. Cultivate digital citizenship and build more connected school communities: Teachers and schools can share examples of responsible online behaviour and encourage students to be positive digital citizens.

Keeping Children Safe Online

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In February 2021, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child released General Comment No 25 – highlighting the extension of children’s rights to the digital sphere. This landmark document underscores the importance of protecting children’s dignity and ensuring their equal rights in both physical and digital environments.

As people spend more time online – whether for work, school, or social interaction – some things become crucial to watch out for. Children are especially vulnerable on digital spheres, as it can be a breeding ground for negative social interactions and privacy risks. Therefore, protecting learners’ rights in digital environments and paying extra attention to potential risks such as disinformation and cyberbullying are crucial within the education sector in Southeast Asia.

The switch to online learning during COVID-19 has also led to a surge of education technology applications that continue to collect data on students, including location and learning activities. Yet despite the fact that children’s data are more exposed now than ever, still less than one in three countries guarantee data privacy in education by law or policy (UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, 2023).

While social media can pose certain risks to learners, especially children, these risks can be managed with informed, intentional use. But how do we ensure that?

First, there is a need to educate learners about risks of being online, teach them the importance of protecting privacy, and provide them with examples on how to use social media as a responsible digital citizen.

Second, schools also should have comprehensive social media guidelines, along with safeguarding and privacy policies to ensure that everyone’s information is secured.

Additionally, teachers also play a crucial role in ensuring their students’ safety. Here are three questions teachers should ask before they post anything from their classroom or school on social media (Common Sense Education, 2022):

  1. Is there anything in this post that personally identifies me or my students? Full names should never be included alongside the photos. Some schools go the extra mile by blurring the faces of every child as an additional safeguarding measure.
  2. Do I have explicit permission to post it? While it is important that schools and teachers obtain parental consent before posting photos of children on social media, teachers should also be asking for learners’ permissions while taking a photo and if they are comfortable with it being shared on the school’s social media platform.
  3. Is what I’m posting furthering the learning of my students or other learners? Let parents know if learners need to communicate with people outside of the class (other classes, experts, authors). Teachers can also use the privacy settings feature on social media to filter how social media is used in learning.

On top of everything, it is also crucial to identify gaps in the existing practices of schools in ensuring digital safety of learners while empowering teachers and citizens, including parents and guardians, with media and information literacy (MIL) competencies. MIL competencies can help teachers, parents, and guardians to critically evaluate information, recognise manipulation, and effectively communicate important social and cultural values. This can make the teaching and learning process more resistant to external challenges and threats, and contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is time to recognise that children are not social media content, but individuals deserving of protection and respect in the digital era.

References:

World Economic Forum. (2022). How Digitalization is Making South and Southeast Asia engines of growth.
UNESCO. (2023). Global Education Monitoring Report: Southeast Asia.
Common Sense Education. (2022). Keeping Your Students (and Yourself) Safe on Social Media: A Checklist.