Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tips for online collaboration tools

There are many online collaboration tools used for education, work and socialising, including video conferencing and learning management systems. Many of these alternative delivery models are being forced upon us as we all adapt to remote learning, teaching and working.

eSafety does not endorse any platforms but recommends that schools, education authorities and organisations check both the potential benefits and vulnerabilities of any platforms they intend to use. It’s a good idea to check the Australian Cyber Security Centre for practical security tips before selecting and using web conferencing.

Another useful resource is The eSafety Guide. This answers key online safety questions about specific platforms and apps (as well as games), including how to protect personal information and report inappropriate content.  

Here are some general tips for using online collaboration tools:

  • Only use the online learning and collaboration platform/s that have been authorised for educational purposes by your school, education department, organisation or sector body.
  • Establish, communicate, and consistently apply clear rules for how adults and young people will interact online. For example, is live video and/or audio conferencing permitted? In what circumstances?
  • If certain platform functions are not permitted (e.g. video or audio recording), use system level controls to disable them.  
  • Enable and set global content filters and appropriate privacy settings where possible.  
  • Make sure all adults know how to apply platform security and privacy settings to online classes or sessions. Adults should know how to prevent uninvited attendees accessing online sessions, how to block video, audio or chat functions, and how to avoid exposing personal information.  
  • Ensure adult-to-adult and adult-to-young person interactions via all media always remains professional. It’s a good idea to avoid using emojis due to the risk of misinterpretation.
  • Avoid using personal email or social media accounts, or personal mobile phones.
  • Keep to allocated contact times, particularly for live video or audio sessions. Sessions should be scheduled during usual school/activity hours and follow a regular timetable. Communicate any variations to the participants and parents.  
  • Also refer to our Guidelines for social media use, video sharing and online collaboration.

Mastering and managing the functions – if you are using video conferencing, practise these skills and strategies for minimising child safety risks:

  • Use audio or chat functions if video conferencing is not essential.
  • Disable the participants' cameras and display only your video stream.
  • Lock/add a password to a meeting to prevent unauthorised access.
  • Mute participants on entry.
  • Remove unauthorised or disruptive participants from the meeting.
  • Disable certain functions e.g. record function.
  • Have a backup plan in the event of misuse.
  • Have a practise to see what screen sharing reveals, to protect privacy.
  • Disable email alerts and other notifications​.
  • Upload resources before your lesson or session.
  • Work out if adult supervisors can ‘drop in’ to observe online classes or sessions.
  • Know how to shut down inappropriate chat, how to exit platforms properly.
  • Address issues of privacy (e.g. obtaining informed consent) and security (e.g. in relation to file transmission and storage), including for adults who may be working from home.
  • Make sure all participants (including yourself) are appropriately dressed and in a suitable location.
  • Blur or apply a customised background if the video platform has the option.
  • Avoid 1:1 interaction with young people via live video or audio. Check your organisation’s working with children alone policy before doing this. eSafety also has guidance for Working alone with children — online.

Please note: Information provided in this tip sheet is general in nature. Your policies and procedures should be consistent with, and informed by, the policies and procedures of your relevant education department, sector or lead agency. If in doubt, contact them for clarification.