By Teachers, For Teachers
Now that we can say most of our schools are filled with pieces of technology in the classroom, it’s time to start thinking about cyber safety a little bit more. Digital citizenship is meant to help keep our students safe and secure while using technology in the classroom tools. Like it or not, there are people (and things) out there that can disrupt the safety of our students when they are utilizing technology in the classroom tools. If you are looking for a few tips on how to teach your students how to be responsible when it comes to technology and their online presence, then you must follow these suggestions.
First and foremost, teach students responsible and respectful online behavior. They should interact online as they would if the person was right in front of them. All too often, young (and old) people have hidden behind their computers to interact with others in an irresponsible, unkind manner. Encourage students to think before they act, and to always remember that when they are online, they leave a digital footprint that is archived and can be brought back at any time. Teach your students to be kind, courteous, and respectful online as well as offline.
A fun way to teach your students the importance of Internet safety is to have them become cyber detectives. The Cybersmart Challenge is an online resource aimed at teaching upper elementary students about online safety. The site uses real-world examples to help students make predications and responsible conclusions.
Make sure that you keep parents in the loop about what online tools their children are using in the classroom. Back-to-School night or open house is the perfect time to discuss with parents the dangers of inappropriate uses online. Encourage parents to talk with their children at home, as well as to monitor their child’s online use. You can even go as far as suggesting to parents that their child sign an online safety contract (there is one for parents as well). The more that parents are involved in their child’s online education, the safer their child will be.
Make sure your students are in the know about how they leave a digital footprint when they are online. Online information is pretty much impossible to get rid of, and children need to understand and fully grasp that concept. For example, if you are teaching impressionable middle school students that love to share every aspect of their lives on social media, they need to understand that what they post now can potentially harm them in their future.
One of the best ways that you can show your students about the importance of online safety is to make it tangible for them. Create a digital toolkit by gathering items (essentially props) so that they can visually see and feel the concepts of security, privacy, and cyber safety. This would include real-world items, such as a magnifying glass (to remind them to look carefully) and a permanent marker (to show them that what they post online cannot be removed). You can also add other items like a padlock to represent that their personal information needs to be secure, and a red flag to represent that they are in a place that is not appropriate for them.
Create real-world scenarios about dangerous Internet usage. An example could look something like this: “Emily is a 12-year-old girl who has an Instagram account. She has her account set to private, but still allows kids she does not know to “Friend” her. One day she gets a private message from a boy that she has never met, but is friends with on here Instagram asking to meet up with her.” After sharing this example, ask students the following questions.
The goal is for the students to come up with a conclusion to this dangerous real-world scenario. Encourage students to remove themselves from any situation where they feel uncomfortable, bullied, or threatened.
The Internet can be a dangerous place, so it is essential that you educate and empower your students so that they have the wherewithal and knowledge to be safe. Talk to them, and most importantly be open and honest with them, especially about their digital footprint.
Do you have any tips to help create a cyber-safe classroom? Please share your expertise in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.