It’s difficult for students to study at home in light of COVID-19. Not only are the normal joys of school-aged life postponed until further notice, but the senior classes of 2020 are also missing out on rites of passage like graduation.
Of course, we all know the pandemic events aren’t a permanent change for our society. As scary as things may seem, our current situation gives us each a chance do our part in flattening the curve of infection. Tap or click to see Kim’s note to readers about the coronavirus pandemic.
And just like the rest of us, students are adapting to these radical changes. Today’s tech is advanced enough to make online lessons a breeze, but internet trolls are finding new ways to make life even harder for students and teachers. Will these people ever catch a break?
Trolls: The internet’s native wildlife
Video conferencing has been an absolute lifesaver for millions of American students. While school appears to be canceled nationwide for the foreseeable future, programs like Zoom and Google Hangouts are making it possible for lessons to continue. Tap or click to see how Google is making hangouts free during COVID-19.
These programs are easy to use, and nearly anyone can join in on a video meeting if they have the direct link. But that openness is exactly why trolls are able to harass students and faculty with shocking imagery and hate speech.
The small Conejo Valley Unified School District in Southern California attempted to have a board meeting when hackers came out of the woodwork and started spamming the conference with slurs, racist symbols and hardcore pornography.
To make matters worse, this was an open meeting posted to the school district’s website that anyone could attend and sit-in on. Needless to say, parents who were present were not amused, and neither were staff members.
This is hardly an isolated incident, though. Just visit YouTube and look up the phrase “ZoomBombing,” which refers to crashing a Zoom meeting for the purpose of disruption or amusement.
Teens are creating viral Tik Tok videos showing their trolling handiwork, as well as tutorials so other kids can do it for themselves. Honestly, if the kids wanted the day off that easily, all they’d need to do is tell the teacher they feel sick!
Openness is dangerous
The openness of the Zoom format is perfect for large-scale meetings, but it’s also the platform’s undoing. The Conejo Valley Unified School District had good intentions by posting the meeting link publicly, but the result was due to poor cybersecurity.
So how do you make a Zoom meeting safe for everyone? The key is to change the settings so trolls don’t have carte blanche to run wild. Tap or click to see more about trolls on Zoom.
When you first fire up your meeting, click Settings on the left side of the Zoom website and scroll down to Screen sharing. Slide the toggle to the left to disable it, which blocks participants from sharing any content on their screens. The toggle will go from blue to gray when you disable it.
Next, you’ll need to disable file-sharing so your chat won’t get filled up with porn or viruses.
In Settings, scroll down to the File transfer and slide the toggle to the left next to “Hosts and participants can send files through the in-meeting chat.”
Now, all the trolls will be able to do is scream into the void until you boot them from your meeting. But even if they come back, they won’t be able to do much harm without screen or file sharing.
On the web, there aren’t any yard aids, teachers or campus police to take miscreants to the principal’s office. It’s up to us to show online trolls that we won’t tolerate their nonsense.