Internet Safety Education for Students

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Albert Einstein once aptly said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” The internet is now an inevitable part of the world, opening multitudes of opportunities and boundless power to change the world. But with great power comes great responsibility – responsibility towards ensuring internet safety and ethics when online.

Teachers play a pivotal role in educating children about internet safety. “Digital citizens aren’t born, they are taught,” the Common Sense Media puts rightly.
Teachers can integrate digital literacy skills in their everyday lessons. Tomorrowsmith Foundation lists some digital skills that teachers must teach their students to stay safe online and become responsible digital citizens.

Teaching Digital Identity Safety

Identity threats

It is essential to educate students about some important concepts on online safety, such as viruses, malware, identity theft, phishing.
Phishing is a kind of cyber-crime when spammers trick users into opening a text message or an email to steal their personal information, login credentials, banking details, etc.

Here is one resource teachers can use to teach about malware threat.

Internet safety from malware

Password Safety

Teachers need to make students aware of the need to have high-security passwords, especially for email and social media accounts. They must make students aware of using unique passwords for different sites.
There are many secure apps like LastPass or Keeper that students can use as password vaults. Password vaults have a safe and encrypted system for managing passwords and storing their information. Common Sense Media Curriculum has given valuable guidelines and approaches to raise awareness about data privacy.

Teaching about online reputation

There is a ‘digital tattoo’ of every individual in the online world, which is impossible to erase. Teachers must make students understand that every online activity they do leaves behind their digital footprints. Therefore, they should think before they post.
Teachers can create fun classroom activities like asking students to track their peers’ digital footprint. They can also use the Wayback Machine to show how old articles are still online. These approaches will make them understand the importance of ‘personal branding’ online.

Photograph Caution

Social media sites make sharing photographs online extremely easy. Young people share their photographs on social media relentlessly, forgetting about the safety aspect of it. But little do the students know that there are risks of exposing some private details, like street signs or billboards, that will get them to become prey in the hands of scammers.

geotagging icon

It is necessary to teach students how to turn off geo-tagging. Geo-tagging feature works by placing a user’s latitude and longitude in a picture. It gives potential intruders the address and other information they need to infiltrate.

Teachers can use this Location-Based Safety Guide to teach students location-based safety.

Responsible Digital Behaviour

Share, Talk, Connect

Building a trusting relationship with the students is crucial to teaching them good digital practices. Rafe Esquith, in his book Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, states that students must be able to trust that teacher is in charge, that the teacher will keep them safe, and that the respect will be mutual.

Teachers should purposely and creatively conduct relationship building activities with their students to connect with them and know what is going on with them. As students build trust in the teacher, they feel safe enough to share their problems and experiences to get the help and take their support in case of a problem.

Stop, Think, Post

Stop cyberbullying graphic

In words of Alfred Adler, a psychologist, “seeing with the eyes of another, hearing with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another” is empathy.
Teaching empathy helps students to prevent and take action against cyberbullying. Teaching students to stop and think before posting and commenting helps them make prudent digital decisions. Teachers can help students practice ‘stop, think, and act’ strategy by incorporating in their in day-to-day interpersonal interactions in the class.

Teaching Media Sense

Managing screen time

The time children spend on digital screens affects their physical and mental health, Researches link excessive screen times to eye strain, trouble sleeping, and other difficulties. 

While designing instructions, teachers should explore ways to have a right balance of offline and online learning. An interesting approach is to use choice boards with a mix of offline and online activities for a topic. Students may choose whether they want to create a comic strip, write a photo essay, or listen to a song to learn the topic. This not only builds student agency but also teaches them to take responsibility for their own screen time.

Dr. Caitlin Tucker has some interesting ideas for choice boards to help teachers balance offline and online teaching activities for their students.

Teaching Fact-check Skills

Teachers should teach students the importance of verifying the information before they post anything online. To teach ways to maintain authentic digital footprints, they can walk students through websites like Snopes, Truth or Fiction, or Threat Encyclopedia.

Designing Safe Instructions

Teachers are responsible to ensure internet safety for their students for the online activities they plan. They need to be careful while using students’ names on social media platforms, especially if it is without parental consent.
Creating WhatsApp groups can reveal students’ numbers and expose them to bullying. It is therefore important to be prudent in choosing a social media platform. Edublogs, Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Class Intercom are some safe social media options for teachers.

These are some practical ways that will help teachers promote and reinforce a culture of digital citizenship in their students. Share your ideas on how you teach internet safety to your students here.

#teachingdigitalcitizenship #internetsafety #internetsafetyforkids #tomorrowsmith

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