Internet safety is perhaps one of the largest concerns on the minds of parents and educators, and if it is not, perhaps it should be. The news often contains stories of young students committing suicide because of their feelings of despair after being cyber-bullied. Stories of sexual predators being caught after attempting to set up a meeting with who they thought was a young girl or boy. And stories of child pornographers being arrested. This does not include the cases where incidents occur and perpetrators are not caught. Now try to shelter a child from the internet. It is nearly impossible. Students can connect from their cellphone, laptop, iPad, Nintendo DS, Xbox, televisions, even their mp3 player. You don’t have internet at your house you say? Well what about the library, school, coffee shops, Starbucks, McDonald’s, a friend’s house. It seems as though everything has connectivity, and with the exception of those in rural areas, you can connect from anywhere.
Don’t go lock your child in their room, because, well that’s illegal, and they would probably find some way to stay connected anyway. Now, I don’t say this to scare you away from the internet, but to raise awareness that it can be a dangerous place if children are not educated and prepared to use it. I think the best way to tackle the issue is to follow the advice from Jacqui Murray in her post “How to Instill Digital Citizenship in Students.” In this post Jacqui suggests we teach children to treat internet safety like neighborhood safety. I will use this premise to create a guide to talk to your children about internet safety.
Most of you did not let your toddler freely roam the neighborhood. You kept them close and as they learned not to play in the road, not to talk to strangers, or to stay within a certain area they earned more privileges. With those privileges also came more responsibilities.
“You can do to the neighbors, but stay away from Mr. Smith’s across the street.”
“You can go to your friends, but first I want to meet them and I want to know where you are going.”
“If something happens and you want to leave, please call me.”
So, what are the rules?
- When at home, ask permission. – This sets up a standard that you care about the child and want to know what they are doing.
- “Look both ways before crossing the (virtual) street” (Murray, 2013) – Be careful about going to new websites. If it seems unsafe or makes you feel uncomfortable back up by pressing the back button.
- “Don’t go places you don’t know” (Murray, 2013) – Don’t go to sites or click on links you aren’t sure about. These can contain software that may harm your computer.
- “Don’t talk to Strangers” – Unlike walking on the street, it is very difficult to tell who may be trying to talk to you on the internet, even if it is a name you know. It is best not to talk to strangers and tell an adult if someone is trying to talk to you on the internet.
- Think before you act – It’s great to think you may have won a computer or a maybe even money, but these are advertisements. Just like that delicious ice cream cone on the television that makes you want to go buy one, advertisers on the internet do what they can to make you click their advertisement and go to their site.
- “Play [nice]” – It’s always important to treat your friends with kindness and respect. The same is true on the internet. Never bully! And help one another out.
It is vital that we teach students how to use the web. Ignoring the issue and attempting to keep them from it, will only exacerbate the issue. Begin teaching these skills early and talk about them often with your students and children.
Here are some more resources to educate yourself and your students.
NetSmartz – Netsmartz has numerous resources for students, parents, and educators. This is the best resource I have come across related to computer and internet safety.
Webonauts – This is a role playing type game from PBS Kids. The students will get to create a character and encounter different situations where they must make the appropriate decisions related to web safety.
Internet Safety for Kids and Parents– Kidshealth.org provides resources to many informative articles. The articles can be read or students can listen to them as they are read aloud. I have found that this motivates them to read more articles.
BrainPop Jr. Internet Safety – This is a video for students (probably younger students K-3), but follows the same ideas as those from Jacqui Murray.
Murray, J. (2013, July 2). How to instill digital citizenship in students. Ask a tech teacher. Retrieved from http://askatechteacher.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/how-to-instill-digital-citizenship-in-students/