Tips for Teaching Internet Safety to Students

Mar 12, 2019 by

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There’s no denying that the internet is a vast and fascinating place filled with useful information. But it can also be a scary place. Internet scams occur every day and there are countless predators online searching for their next victim. But how can you protect students from the negativity found online? Especially when technology is now fully-integrated into most classrooms. Students turn to the internet for research, email, discussion boards, and online classes. Knowledge is power when it comes to spotting an internet scam, hoax, or danger. Check out these tips for training students how to recognize these warning signs and remain safe online.

1. Avoid Social Media Accounts

Social media has quite literally taken the world by storm. There are over 2.7 billion social media accounts worldwide. And while things like Facebook help adults connect with friends and family, their use for young adults and even those under the age of 13 is questionable at best. There’s really no reason for a young student to have a social media account, but many do. From Instagram to Snapchat, students are constantly updating their social media profiles, posting photos and videos, and commenting on other people’s posts. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it lend itself to internet bullying but it also damages many young adult’s self-esteem. This is especially detrimental to impressionable children who are already struggling to find their identity and feel good about themselves. Inform studentS about the dangers of social media bullying and messaging people they don’t know. Almost every social media platform enables messaging between two parties. This is extremely dangerous for students, especially if they don’t know the person they’re communicating with.

2. Monitor and Limit Their Search History

Monitoring student’s search history is the best way to protect them and find out if they’ve already been exposed to inappropriate material. The easiest way to do this is to place parental protections and limitations on their internet use. YouTube Kids is a great way to do this. This app only allows children to search topics appropriate for their age, which you set. A recent internet hoax known as the Momo challenge has placed fear in both students and parents. Momo is a disfigured young girl with large eyes and an evil smile that pops up unexpectedly in children’s video feeds, encouraging them to commit acts of violence against others and themselves. While much debate surrounds the origins of this hoax and whether or not it’s legitimate, it’s just one example of why monitoring student’s search history is key. If there are computers in the classroom, make sure students aren’t accessing the internet for anything other than educational games or research related to their schoolwork. Many schools send laptops and iPads home with students. Check the history on these devices as well. Students may think they can search inappropriate items outside of school, even though they’re using a device registered to the school.

3. Understand the Difference Between Legitimate and Questionable Websites

As students get older and more versed in internet research, you can start teaching them about which websites are legitimate and which aren’t. This is an important component of internet research in general. Students conducting research for an assignment or project need to fact-check their information. Certain websites are validated and guaranteed to offer accurate information. Examples of these are government and education agencies. Personal blogs are often filled with personal opinions. This information isn’t valid for school research. Not to mention, these personal blogs may deliver an inappropriate message or viewpoint. Students should steer clear of reading personal blogs online. Another concern is visiting websites or downloading content that contains a virus. While most school devices are protected, students should still know not to download anything from a pop-up window and to only visit protected websites. Google takes extra measures to ensure the security and legitimacy of the websites and domains you visit. Find out more here about that.

4. Protect Personal Information at All Times

This is one of the most important ways to protect young students and internet users. Students should never share their personal information online. This includes their real name, full name, address, photographs, or the name of their school. You never know who is asking this information and for what purpose. Young learners are eager and often too trusting when it comes to their interactions, especially with adults. After all, we teach our children to trust adults and authority figures. Sadly, not all adults have pure intentions. And in today’s highly technological world, a few simple personal facts are all a predator needs to locate a child. Don’t let students register for any online programs that require the enter their personal information. Most websites allow the school to register under the teacher’s name or using a code. Older students who may be taking online courses can share their name and other information via email to their teacher alone but should never make it public knowledge. It’s also recommended to create a professional email address but not one that contains your full name.

5. Be Available and Approachable

Chances are, your students will unintentionally stumble across one or more internet dangers at some point in their educational careers. And the best thing for you to do is be available and approachable. Depending on what the student finds or encounters online, they may be scared or embarrassed to tell an adult. Reassure students that you’re there to help them. Let them know that they’re not in any trouble but that you need to know if something bad happens so you can take care of it. This may also help you prevent other incidents in the future. Even if the student intentionally searched something and then regretted their decision, they should feel comfortable coming to you about it. Try to remain calm and patient when handling these types of situations. Sensitivity is crucial. If you react in a negative manner, that student may not feel comfortable coming to you in the future when they encounter something truly dangerous.

The reality of the matter is that students need the internet. It’s convenient and filled with useful information. But they also need to learn how to navigate it safely and be aware of possible dangers. The more open and honest you are with students, the better. Monitor their activity and limit access to inappropriate materials whenever possible. And remember, if a negative incident arises, be compassionate and learn from it so you can prevent future issues.

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