OSSTF/FEESO recently updated the Cybersafety brochure found in the member protected portion of the OSSTF/FEESO website. The information and advice contained within could not be more relevant than during emergency distance learning when schools are closed and more members are using technology to communicate with parents, families, students, and staff.
Being cyber safe
To utilize all the digital resources accessible to you requires knowledge, expertise, and caution. The following information, found in the Cybersafety brochure, can assist you in making decisions that help you do your job, while protecting yourself from malicious acts, privacy, and boundary issues.
About the law: What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate and hostile behaviours, by an individual or a group, which are intended to harm others. Forms of cyberbullying which are can be considered criminal acts include:
- Repeated, unwanted communication that causes someone to fear for their own or others’ safety.
- Defamatory libel designed to insult a person or hurt a person’s reputation.
- Spreading hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or disability that may be a violation under the Canadian Human Rights Act/Ontario Human Rights Code.
What to do if you are a cyberbullying target?
- Make copies of all questionable messages/web postings and other related data, including the URL.
- Direct the sender to stop and state that the conduct is unacceptable and inappropriate.
- Do not otherwise engage with the sender as this may escalate the situation.
- Access support through your employer and local federation according to policy and procedure.
- Inform and involve your Occupational Health and Safety Committee if your safety is threatened.
- Contact your federation for further advice and support.
Activities that can result in disciplinary action
One must take care in communicating electronically particularly when related to work, whether on employer equipment and servers, or using your own device. Actions that have led to discipline investigations include:
- Visiting inappropriate websites.
- Sending or forwarding offensive jokes.
- Online gambling at the workplace.
- Downloading audio, video, or text-based materials in violation of copyright laws.
- Using employer equipment to engage in activities relating to another occupation.
- Posting suggestive or inappropriate pictures of yourself or others over the internet.
- Engaging in personal electronic communication with students.
- Conversing inappropriately about colleagues through emails or social networking sites.
- Sharing confidential information through an email system or a social networking site.
- Posting criticism of administrators, trustees, colleagues, students, or parents on social networking sites.
- Using devices outside of the employer’s guidelines or appropriate use policy
Using the following guidelines, you can reduce your risk of harm through inappropriate cyber conduct:
- Maintain exemplary professional standards when communicating electronically with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.
- Always keep a copy of your email messages.
- Use a professional voice when communicating via cyberspace.
- Use a signature that includes your name, assignment title, and workplace.
- Share your password with others.
- Leave your computer on and unattended.
- Send unnecessary attachments with emails.
- Write emails using all capitals.
- Do not use cyberspeak or emojis when communicating with parents or students.
- Permit images of yourself to be taken or posted on any site without appropriate privacy safeguards.
- Post criticism of administrators, colleagues, students, or parents on social networking sites.
- Writing or sending communication beyond regular, reasonable work hours
What else should you consider during the COVID-19 shutdown as more communication has gone virtual?
- Use your professional judgment to evaluate the appropriate use of technology applicable to your practice.
- Live videos do make members more vulnerable to unpredictable audience behaviour: consider using techniques such as asynchronous pre-recorded videos, where technology permits. If using a platform that includes video, covering up or turning off student and teacher webcams may be appropriate.
- Teacher members are strongly advised to avoid having one-on-one video sessions with students because of the inherent risk associated with being alone with a student.
- However, members should follow the direction of the employer and contact their local Bargaining Unit immediately if they believe that employer-directed behaviour puts them at risk.
- Members who are opting to use virtual spaces in their instruction should report any concerning behaviour directly to administration and keep a log of events to assist with classroom management tracking.
- For new or unfamiliar platforms, teachers may wish to practice with colleagues before going live with students.
The OSSTF/FEESO Cybersafety brochure can be found under Services>All Members, in myOSSTF. To learn more about cyberbullying and cybersafety, talk to your local leaders about requesting an OSSTF/FEESO CyberBullying workshop.