August 02, 2022

Article at GESS Education

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Do Your Students Have the Confidence to Keep Themselves Safe Online?

Do Your Students Have the Confidence to Keep Themselves Safe Online?

What is self-confidence and why do we need it? Some people have it in abundance; others would love to have more.

While much of it may be innate, knowing the key components that we can work on is invaluable – and many of today’s students are lucky enough to learn about them in school.

Self-confidence is much more than being brave enough to stand up in front of the class and speak, perform a role in the school play in front of parents, or sing a solo in a school concert. It’s about having the self-belief to speak out and share ideas or concerns and, crucially, be able to express them in a way that people will take them seriously. Having a well-developed sense of self helps us to navigate through life, empathise, get on with others, stand up for our values and act responsibly. And when we have the skills to trust our own values and judgements, self-confidence, self-belief and self-esteem build.

Modelling and embedding approaches to building self-confidence

Learning positive social behaviours has both individual and group benefits. Many students are lucky enough to be able to absorb these traits at home from the examples modelled by their parents/carers, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for others, which is why it’s so important that students experience social-emotional learning in school.

Small gestures and comments are really effective and it can start with something as simple as teachers giving positive feedback about a student’s actions, character or achievements. This can be especially encouraging for those who are rarely praised at home. It can lead to greater motivation and engagement, as well as improving attainment – and all from a teacher’s kind, considered and carefully chosen words. Furthermore, the benefit of praising something about an individual that is unique to them can help them start to believe in their self-worth outside of school, too.

Self-confidence can be further fostered in schools where there is a focus on oracy. A strand that runs throughout every subject of the curriculum, oracy skills help students gain the confidence to speak out, enabling them to better engage with others and express their own ideas and views. There are positive impacts for students’ engagement and progress – and, recognising this, schools across Dubai are increasingly seeing the benefits of incorporating it into their lessons to help students further develop their confidence and belief in themselves.

What’s technology’s role in all of this?

One of the most important steps on the road to self-confidence is empowering students to act when they know they need to – and an especially pertinent area for this is keeping themselves safe online.

Alongside all the wonderful parts of the internet, there are unfortunately many disadvantages of 24-7 connectivity: internet crazes, social media pressures, online addiction, vulnerability to crime, the hazards of fake information, the ability for untruths to go viral, risks of radicalisation, drugs, grooming and more – which, no matter how confident a student may be to start with, can all have negative effects if they become involved in unsafe activity online that potentially spills over into real life.

In extreme cases like these, where a third party may have eroded a student’s self-belief, speaking to someone about the problems they might be having may not be an option – especially if they are involved in something risky and have been told not to tell ‘or else’. Plus, they may not feel that sharing their worry is even valid, especially if their confidence is at rock bottom.

This is where the impersonal touch of technology can be valuable, with some schools employing solutions that allow students to confide in trusted teachers simply by typing a message – there’s no need to speak, no need to feel embarrassed in front of them, and there are no worries about getting told off. The ability to reach out for help in this way can be a lifeline – and being able to confide their situation in writing gets them around the ‘don’t talk to anyone about it’ issue. This kind of tool hands the power back to the student (as well as supporting those who are shy or prefer not to speak out) and allows them to ask for the help they need.

Of course, not all students will find themselves in such dire circumstances, but these kinds of technology tools can play a vital part in giving them the confidence to raise concerns about themselves or their friends in a non-confrontational way.

Skills for life

While social-emotional learning can help students to believe in themselves, oracy skills, whether in an in-class or virtual setting, provide them with the self-awareness and confidence to know right from wrong and to be able to speak out. A combination of these two aspects, plus the advantages afforded by EdTech solutions, are an excellent foundation to support students as they learn to handle the challenges presented to them both in their online and offline lives.

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