Principal gets creative to improve students’ online security

Elim Christian College junior school is a government school in Manukau City, Auckland, whose 829 students are required to bring and use mobile devices – specifically, iPads.

While these devices were designed to enhance the students’ learning engagement and collaborative culture, the school’s principal, Shaun Brooker, has had to deal with a complex downside of this technology – students’ online security.

Brooker has been confronted with complex questions from parents about how to manage their child’s online privacy and safety but also the content they’re accessing.

In the absence of such a guide for concerned parents, Brooker decided to write and publish his own – a book titled: ‘Keeping Your Child/Teen Safe in the Online Jungle’.

The book, which Brooker describes as a “buffet of information”, surged to second place on Apple's online New Zealand iBookstore for the first six weeks following its release and has been downloaded by parents in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US and the Netherlands.

"There's a void of information around that for parents in general," Booker told

Among the topics covered in the book are managing online activity at home and how to change security and privacy settings on devices.

It’s up to parents to pick out the parts that were right for them and their children, Brooker said.

“These devices are more than just gaming tools,” Brooker said, adding the technology was important for creativity and that learning should not be taken away from children for fear of something going wrong.

"When a child writes on the wall you don't ban them from using pens,” Brooker said.

Below are some key takeaways from Brooker’s guidebook:
1. Maintain ownership. Make it a family device. This gives parents the ability to change settings and maintain control of how it's used and when.

2. Don't sleep with devices. Charge devices overnight in the kitchen, lounge or parents' bedroom rather than in the child's bedroom.

3. It's more than a gaming device. Set time limits for games. Create guidelines for how the device is used. For example, devices could be just used for homework and creative learning during the week and gaming during the weekend.