Back-to-School, Back-to-Safety: Keeping Students Safe During the Academic Year

August 8, 2022

The students in your life will return to classes soon, and now is the time to invest in their digital wellness and instill online safety etiquette. Our new “Back-to-School, Back-to-Safety” series features resources we have compiled to equip families with the necessary tools to set their children up for success online. It is equally important for teachers, parents, and students themselves to be aware of how to best handle any potential risks when integrating technology into the classroom. 

If several years in a pandemic with virtual learning has shown us anything, it’s that technology is a vital way for students to interact with educational material. Whether students are starting grade school or attending their dream university, technology is revolutionizing the way young people are learning. Yet, without online safety guidance and digital literacy, users may still be susceptible to negative online experiences, or lack balance in their approach to moderation and screen time. We hope our back-to-school resources can help to support parents as new devices are introduced into their children’s lives at an early age.

Technology moves fast, and the growing generational gap in technological aptitude can pose a challenge for parents attempting to navigate digital spaces that their children may be more familiar with. As we move forward into an even more advanced digital age, and even new frontiers like the metaverse, it is essential for parents to stay informed about the latest platforms and online spaces that their children are using to learn about the world. In the spirit of the back-to-school season, prioritizing self-education when it comes to tech updates serves as the first line of defense in keeping students safe. The more confident parents feel about their own understanding of technology, the more effective they will be when providing guidance and parameters for their children’s online behaviors.

Some highlights in the “Back-to-School, Back-to-Safety” series include:

These highlights along with additional helpful materials can be found on the “Back-to-School, Back-to-Safety” page. Parents and teachers can visit the page to start open discussions with students about what safe technology use can look like in academic settings.

Written by

Stephen Balkam

For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world.

Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.

In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.

Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.

Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.