8 Practical Tips for Internet Safety on Pinterest

Learning on Pinterest is creative, visual, interactive and just plain fun. But social media is social media, and there are always some concerns when students head boldly out into the digital landscape. In this guide, we’ll take a look at a few key ways to keep them safe and to allay the fears of parents and administrators alike.

1. Make profiles as private as possible

Alas, Pinterest is one of those social sites where there’s no clear “private” option for profiles. However, if you want to get your students onto Pinterest, there are several ways you can obscure their identities.

Use avatars

Have students choose a fake username — perhaps their favorite character from a book or an invented monster name. Then, have them create or choose an image that they’d like to have represent them.

Set search privacy

For “Search Privacy,” choose “Yes” to hide the profile from Google. This way it won’t be indexed.

Turn off personalization

“Personalization” is just a roundabout way of saying, “We want to track your child’s online movements so we can sell their data to advertisers.” Turn both of these options off.

Limit notifications

You want to choose the option that only allows students to be contacted by people they’re already following. This will help limit their interactions with other users.

Linking social networks may sound convenient, but it’s just another grab for the student’s data. Keep those profiles separate.

2. Stick to secret boards

Every time you create a board, you’ll have the option to keep it secret. You can still invite students individually to contribute to the board, but it won’t be open to the public.

3. Set clear, reasonable boundaries

The goal here is to keep students safe — not to make them feel like you’re breathing down their necks. You can do that by setting clear and specific boundaries that make sense to the students — and the more that you can teach them alternatives for banned behaviors, the better. If you’re going to set any strict laws, one good option is a time limit to ensure students don’t fall into a pinning wormhole. This will also help teach wider self-regulation when it comes to digital media. 

4. Go over acceptable pinning guidelines

Students should know that what they post must be relevant to the board they’re posting it to. More importantly, they should know what kinds of posts are inappropriate and potentially dangerous. For example, they should know not to post any photos of themselves, no matter what the context. Every class member should understand that everything posted to Pinterest will exist permanently in their databases, even when deleted later on. Encourage students to think before they post.

5. Determine what is appropriate communication

Whenever you’re entering an online venue, there’s always the potential for bullying. Even an overabundance of half-constructive sounding criticism can be devastating to a student who is mid-project. That’s why it makes sense to take the time to talk about what a productive discussion looks and sounds like, especially if students are going to be providing feedback on each other’s work.

Part and parcel with this should come a discussion of what types of comments are okay to hear. Students should also know what they should do if they’re feeling in any way hurt or unsafe and that they can and should confide in a trusted adult.

6. Discuss alternatives to negative behavior

To nip bullying in the bud before it even dreams of blooming, a role-playing activity can be useful. Here, you can model the kind of behavior that might be considered unacceptable and brainstorm alternative behaviors and responses with the class. Doing so will help students feel like they have a stake in the conversation and will give them alternative behaviors they can use, rather than overwhelming students with all of the “can’ts.” 

7. Have students sign an Internet Safety Pledge

Just as you might have made students create and sign a class behavior contract at the beginning of the year, you can have them sign an Internet safety pledge. There are plenty of templates available online, but just like with a class contract, it can be more meaningful to students if they come up with the contract themselves based on everything you’ve learned together about Internet safety. Doing so will make them feel more involved, and you’ll know they have a deep understanding of these rules.

8. Get parents involved

Parents are most likely already concerned about their children’s digital presences, so they will probably be happy to get involved in keeping their children safe while on Pinterest. Send parents a primer or tutorial on the platform in case they’re not familiar, as well as the same guidelines for acceptable behavior and staying safe that you’re giving to the students. Parents can then monitor usage to ensure all of these tenets are being followed.