Internet safety is an increasingly important topic in elementary classrooms. It seems that technology is becoming more and more important in our classrooms. The bigger influence the internet and technology has in our classrooms, the more careful we need to be with that influence on our students.
Many of us as teachers weren’t taught internet safety in school because the internet wasn’t as big as it is today. It wasn’t as integral to everyday life, either. Now, the internet is everywhere in our students’ lives from educational content, games, and videos to silly YouTube videos, social media, and the other not-so-good side of the internet. As teachers and adults in the lives of our students, it is our responsibility to help teach students internet safety to keep them protected when using the internet.
What is internet safety and why is it important to teach it to students?
Internet safety is the practice of being smart and careful with the information presented online. You can find anything on the internet if you search hard enough for it. Your students can find it, too, and they will probably find it twice as fast. It is important to teach our students how to go about safely finding information that will be helpful to us. We need to teach them how to avoid inappropriate sites, giving out personal information, cyber bullying, and to not let the internet control their lives with videos, social media, and games.
Understand Internet Safety for Yourself
Before we can teach students about internet safety, we as teachers need to understand internet safety. Take some time to research what is out there and what we need to be aware of. The first and hopefully most obvious tip for internet safety is to never give out personal information to anyone or any website that you are not familiar with or don’t trust completely.
Always be aware of any interaction through the website with other individuals or even automated internet bots that ask questions and collect data. If you are unsure of any website or its safety for your students, simply google the website. Chances are, other teachers, parents, or adults have had an experience with the website they have already shared in review. Whether good or bad, a well-written review goes a long way in whether you can trust a particular website.
Government Sponsored Internet Safety Rules & Programs
The US Government has a helpful list of tips and tricks for keeping kids safe online. It is a great one to review yourself, incorporate into your internet safety lessons, and pass along to parents to implement at home. You will find the article on the US Department of Justice website, Keeping Children Safe Online.
In addition to helpful tips you can teach students in your classroom about internet safety, there is also a government program that can help limit the websites students have access to at school. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted by Congress in 2000 to help protect students online. The CIPA Act blocks inappropriate websites and filters images that may not be suited for young children to see. This helps with a lot of websites at school, but there is always a chance that a website that should be blocked is not. That is why you must also speak to children about internet safety rules.
Internet Safety in the Classroom
The most important things to remember are to talk to your students about what they are doing online, and what your expectations for their internet searches and behavior are. Always review the websites students are using ahead of time for safety. Maintain a common area for students to be on the internet. Do not allow tablets, laptops, or other devices connected to the internet to be used in corners or secluded areas where you cannot walk by and monitor the screens. Enable parental controls on any device that has it as an option to help combat the inappropriate sites that filters may not catch.
Teach your students about cyber bullies. Just like regular bullies that they may meet in the classroom or on the playground, cyber bullies are not to be tolerated. Cyber bullying includes any form of harmful or mean content about anyone else. This is commonly found on social media, where bullies hide behind the internet to hulimilate, embarrass, or hurt someone’s feelings. Cyber bullying can involve photos, images, hateful text, false information, or mean content about someone. Cyber bullying is wrong, just as regular bullying is wrong and many states have laws against it now. If you see cyber bullying, you can and should report it. For more information about cyber bullying, visit stopbullying.gov for more helpful tips and tricks.
It is extremely important to keep up to date on all the different safety techniques when it comes to internet safety. Our students deserve to be safe online. We, as teachers, need to be diligent and help our students to be safe in their research and activities. The internet and screen time is definitely a part of our lives that isn’t going away soon, so being prepared to help our children be successful while on the devices is important.