I am amazed at how much I, as a teacher, am responsible for teaching that has nothing to do with the curriculum. I find myself teaching my students how to use good manners, how to sweep up floors, and how to use stereo equipment at our rallies. And while I, on occasion, grumble about the the overwhelming expectations I have as an educator, I also recognize and appreciate the magnitude of my responsibility. Among the most important responsibilities I carry in these changing times is the responsibility I have to teach my students internet safety.
This year, I started my classes off with what I thought would be “basic” internet safety discussions and lessons. I asked them to think about their beliefs and attitudes when it comes to using the internet. I then asked my students to think about what they thought their parents’ attitudes might be as well. Students took sticky notes and posted them around the room. It was this basic activity that truly opened my eyes as to how important it is that teachers teach the skills that students need to keep themselves safe.
I teach in an upper-middle class community. Most of my students have computers at home. Most of my students have cell phones with internet access. I assumed that there was some kind of education going on in most homes regarding internet usage . I was wrong. Here are just a few of the comments my students wrote on their sticky notes.
“My parents have no idea what I do on the internet. But I don’t think they really care.”
“I learned the hard way that it is a bad idea to share pictures with people. Especially embarrassing ones.”
“My parents let me use the internet to do whatever I want.”
“I didn’t know that the people could lie about who they are in the internet until last year.”
“Nothing on the internet is private and don’t ask me how I know that because I would rather not talk about it.”
“My parents don’t care about the internet.”
Talk about scary! I realized right then and there that if I don’t teach my students how to stay safe, then it may not happen. It is my responsibility, and I take it seriously. Our sticky note activity has led to some serious and honest discussions, and I love the questions the kids ask me.
My priority at this point has been keeping my students safe and “out of trouble” when they are online. Some of the basic guidelines we’ve established are based upon resources from Common Sense Media. Some of the basic guidelines include the following:
- Password Protection
- Never share your passwords with anyone. Keep a “Safe Space” for all passwords.
- Plagiarism and Copyright Issues
- Give credit where credit is due. If in doubt, ask a teacher.
- Personal Information
- Keep your personal information personal.
The lessons will continue. At school, we have a firewall that blocks questionable sites and YouTube. While I understand the reasons for blocking these sites on a school campus, I am frustrated by the fact that these firewalls don’t allow us to teach our students how to handle things when a questionable advertisement or website appears on the screen. We are missing out on some very teachable moments in our classrooms. And as I learned, not all parents are teaching their children what do to when these situations arise.In fact, recent surveys have shown that parents are depending on schools to teach internet safety to their children, and I think it’s time that teachers and districts come the realization that it is indeed our job.
“How to Teach Internet Safety to Younger Elementary Students.” Edutopia. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.edutopia.org/blog/internet-safety-younger-elementary-mary-beth-hertz>.
“Media and Technology Resources for Educators.” Reviews & Age Ratings. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators>.
“Reading Online.” Reading Online. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.readingonline.org/editorial/edit_index.asp?HREF=/editorial/ethics.html>.
“Survey: Parents Look to Teachers for Internet Safety Training — THE Journal.” Survey: Parents Look to Teachers for Internet Safety Training — THE Journal. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://thejournal.com/Articles/2014/07/07/Survey-Parents-Look-to-Teachers-for-Internet-Safety-Training.aspx>.