Some schools claim they are monitoring their students’ online activities very closely

The latest bizarre and dangerous trend to take over social media is the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’. Youngsters are uploading videos of themselves eating laundry detergent and daring others to do the same. The act has already hospitalised students in the US, prompting social media channels – including YouTube and Facebook – to take down such videos.

Several warnings have been issued about the dangers of consuming detergent, including causing severe burns to the mouth and digestive system. Even though it should be obvious that detergent isn’t an edible product, the warnings by experts are going unnoticed by youngsters as more disturbing videos emerge.

This is not the first dangerous social media challenge to surface the web. The ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ has killed several teenagers already. The ‘Charlie, Charlie’ game had also raised concerns.

Considering the UAE is one of the most digitally connected countries worldwide, how well prepared are schools and parents to ensure our youngsters stay away from these bizarre and dangerous challenges? Have schools developed policies to safeguard students from online dangers?

Some schools claim they are monitoring their students’ online activities very closely. Farida Dhambolawala, the head of innovation and e-learning at the GEMS Founders School, said they know “exactly” what their students are up to online.

“Every child has an individual username and password so that we can monitor what they are viewing during school hours,” she said. “Our firewall restricts students accessing certain websites. Our students have the opportunity to report online abuse through the school Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

We will also be introducing a new Mobile Device Management (MDM) system in order to better manage student-owned devices.

“Fortunately, we have encountered only a few incidents which had to be dealt with discussions and contacting parents. We use our school VLE and newsletters to help promote the importance of internet safety and encourage students to speak to a trusted adult. The restrictions to websites are updated continuously based on feedback from teacher, parents and students.”
Educators at the GEMS Modern Academy keep an eye out for the latest trends that surface online – all in an effort to ensure their students are not taking part in them.

Ritesh Dhanak, the digital learning supervisor at the school, said they also monitor students’ online activity.

“Our digital learning team – comprising of teachers, students and administrators – are constantly monitoring the trends that may be dangerous. The first line of defence at school is dialogue and then blocking the internet servers. It is important to have a two-way dialogue with students to help them arrive at the conclusion as to what is wrong and what is right,” he said.

– sarwat@khaleejtimes.com

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