The School Counselor and Student Safety with Digital Technology
Adopted 2000; revised 2006, 2012, 2017, 2023)
ASCA PositionDigital technology (e.g. cell phones/mobile devices, gaming platforms, social media, and the internet) is a useful tool in creating equitable and developmental learning opportunities to enhance student academic, career, and social/emotional development. School counselors educate students and families about responsible use, digital citizenship, cultural, ethical, and legal considerations and collaborate with families, educators and law enforcement officials to alert students to risks technology poses.
The RationaleTo be successful in school and within their relationships and prepared for postsecondary opportunities, students need to be proficient in and aware of the use of interactive digital technology (ASCA, 2021). However, when students access social media, gaming platforms and interactive digital technology, they leave a digital footprint that makes them vulnerable to significant risks that compromise their safety, security and reputation (Gallo et al., 2018; Su et al., 2021). Technology exposes students to behavioral, safety and privacy risks, such as:
- Invasion of privacy and disclosure of personal information
- Inappropriate online communications
- Access to inappropriate content and media
- Sexual predators and human trafficking
- Addictions to cell phone use, gaming, social media and/or the internet
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors have a responsibility to promote healthy student development and to protect students from digital technology’s potential risks. School counselors consider the ethical and legal considerations of technological applications, including confidentiality concerns, student and community safety concerns, security issues, potential benefits and limitations of communication practices using electronic media, and managing appropriate boundaries with students and stakeholders (ASCA, 2022). In addition, school counselors, in collaboration with other stakeholder groups:
- Adhere to legal, ethical, district and school policies and guidelines when using technology with students and stakeholders and/or working in a virtual school counseling setting (ASCA, 2023)
- Provide culturally sustaining instruction, appraisal and advisement, and counseling to help all students demonstrate technology use that enhances learning strategies, self-management and social skills (ASCA, 2021)
- Provide educators and families with guidelines for the appropriate use of technology by students
- Address individual and systemic repercussions related to the impact of inappropriate student social media/technology use (ASCA, 2021; Gallo, et al., 2018; Tinstman Jones, et al., 2020)
- Take measures to maintain the confidentiality of student information and educational records stored or transmitted through any electronic technology (ASCA, 2022)
- Keep informed about new academic integrity programs and technological advances that may affect students or education systems (e.g., artificial intelligence (technology)
- Be involved in creating school and district policies to address potential risks and benefits
In addition, schools or districts should respond to technological reports of threats, harm to self and others in collaboration with multidisciplinary school teams. Inform parents/guardians and school administration when a student poses a serious and foreseeable risk of harm to self or others (Cowen, et al., 2021). This notification is to be done after careful deliberation and consultation with appropriate professionals, such as other school counselors, school nurse, school psychologist, school social worker, school resource officer, or child protective services. Even if the danger appears relatively remote, parents/guardians must be notified (ASCA, 2022).
School counselors take the following actions to promote the safe, responsible use of technology (ASCA, 2022; iKeepSafe, 2022):
- Advocate for equitable access to technology for all students
- Advocate for school policies and multitiered interventions that detect harmful student behavior and engage in risk-reduction approaches
- Respond to online incidents affecting conditions for learning
- Facilitate and monitor school wide cyberbullying prevention and intervention programs
- Promote and advocate for practices supporting a positive school climate, culture and belonging
- Address and promote student digital citizenship, cyber-balance, healthy content choices, social awareness and the impact of digital habits on mental health through direct student services and collaboration with families and the school community
- Develop peer-helper programs encouraging students to help each other understand technological risks, practice responsible use and support other students who are vulnerable
- Refrain from the use of personal social media, text and email accounts to interact with students unless sanctioned by the school district
SummarySchool counselors recognize the impact interactive digital technology has on student learning, wellbeing, and safety. School counselors promote the responsible use of technology in collaboration with families, school staff, and the community to increase and improve student well-being and safety.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association. (2021) ASCA student standards: Mindsets & Behaviors for student success: K-12 college-, career-and life-readiness standards for every student.
American School Counselor Association. (2022). ASCA ethical standards for school counselors.
American School Counselor Association. (2023). The school counselor and virtual school counselor. ASCA position statements.
Cowen, R. G., Tedeschi, T. J., Corbin, M., & Cole, R. (2021). A mixed-method analysis of averted mass violence in schools: Implications for professional school counselors. Psychology in Schools, 59(4), 817–831.https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22647
Gallo, L. L., Rausch, M. Smith, C. C., & Wood. S. M. (2018). School counselors’ experiences working with digital natives: A qualitative study. Professional School Counseling, 20(1), 14–24. https://doi.org/10.5330/1096-2409-20.1.14
iKeepSafe. (2022). Educator resources. Retrieved 2022 from https://ikeepsafe.org/resources/educator
Su, Y. W., Doty, J., Polley, B. R., Cackmacki, H., Swank, J., & Sickels, A. (2021). Collaborating with families to address cyberbullying: Exploring school counselors’ lived experiences. Professional School Counseling, 25(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2156759X211053825
Tinstman Jones, J. L., Campbell, L. O., Stickl Haugen, J., & Sutter, C. C. (2020). Cyberbullying considerations for school counselors: A social media content analysis. Professional School Counseling, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2156759X20919365