Staying Two Steps Ahead of Safety Risks This School Year

Summer break is almost over, and students everywhere will soon be transitioning from the unstructured freedom of the holidays into a daily study schedule that warrants more time online. If several years in a pandemic with virtual learning has shown us anything, it’s that technology is a vital educational medium. Yet, safety guidance and digital literacy are vital to ensuring that children are savvy and resilient when facing any potential risks online.

But together, policymakers, tech leaders, and parents can ensure our kids can have safe and rewarding experiences online.

For example, ActiveFence is meeting the challenge on two fronts. First, by monitoring the dark and indexed web to find and disable the bad actors that may target children and adolescents. Through deep human intelligence and contextualized AI, subject matter experts can source bad behavior back to where it starts, such as chat groups, forums, malicious chatter, and more. This advanced technology can help identify signals and tactics—such as using secret jargon and emojis to conceal intentions or evade safeguards—and send the information back to online platforms for immediate action.

Tech leaders are working tirelessly to identify and gain in-depth knowledge of dangers specific to their communities, as well as establishing comprehensive safety policies that clearly outline unacceptable behavior. At home, parents should serve as the next line of defense. 

Which brings us to the second front: education for parents. Technology moves fast, and the growing generational gap in technological aptitude can pose a challenge for parents attempting to navigate new digital spaces. As we move forward into an even more advanced digital age, it’s essential for parents to stay informed about the online spaces popular with their children. 

As parents prepare for the back-to-school season, they should use this time to revisit past conversations about online safety and digital wellness with their kids—each school year provides space to learn from the past, create healthy intentions for the future, and align on family tech expectations. 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 behavior.

Parents need to have an active and open dialogue with their children about their digital lives and consider signing a family online safety agreement. It’s important to get familiar with the reporting process of children’s preferred platforms so that it’s easier to step in when necessary. Reinforce what’s right and wrong in the digital sphere: no to sharing sensitive information, yes to being kind online. In this way, parents can create a foundation that educates kids about avoiding unnecessary risks online—while still allowing them to benefit from all the digital world has to offer.

Resources curated by experts in online safety deep dive into advice on student data privacy, teaching kids how to maintain a good digital reputation, and fostering their wellbeing with a balanced and thoughtful approach to screen time, and more.

From AI detection to auto-alerts informing parents of potentially harmful messages or online interactions, we already have a toolkit for protecting children online. But to keep the youngest users safe, online platforms and parents must work hand-in-hand to ensure an effective line of defense at home. As your family settles back into a school routine, let's double down on children’s safety. 

Written by

Inbal Goldberger & Stephen Balkam

Inbal Goldberger is the VP of Trust & Safety at ActiveFence, dedicated to preventing online harm. 

Stephen Balkam is the Founder & CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, making the world safer for kids and families.