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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How to Teach Internet Safety to Younger Elementary Students

Mary Beth Hertz

HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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Back in October, I wrote a post about Teaching Digital Citizenship in the Elementary Classroom. As it is Internet Safety Month, I want to share a sample lesson for teaching internet safety to students as young as kindergarten. Yes, you read correctly . . . kindergarten.

With children spending time online at younger and younger ages, it is vital that we explicitly teach young children how to protect themselves online. Most young children get the "Stranger Danger" talk at school, so they know about how to handle strangers in their neighborhood and in face-to-face situations.

There are three considerations when addressing Internet safety with these students. First, the transfer of handling strangers in "real life" to those in virtual environments is not automatic. It needs to be taught. Second, while most "Stranger Danger" programs teach that strangers are scary, mean and want to hurt or abduct children, this contradicts the way collaboration occurs between strangers online. Not all strangers are dangerous. Lastly, in "real life," students can walk or run away from a potential threat. In an online environment, the danger is inside a student's home and hard to escape without the necessary skills for handling tough situations.

This is a lesson that I have done with my kindergarten and first grade students to introduce the idea that strangers exist on the Internet and to discuss how we should interact with them.

Protecting Private Information Online

Materials

  • Projector
  • Computer
  • Internet access

Introduction

(If a projector and/or interactive whiteboard is available, these questions can be projected on a screen during the discussion.)

  1. Ask, "What is a stranger?" After soliciting various answers, ensure that students understand that a stranger is someone we don't know. Remind students that some strangers may want to hurt students, but not all strangers are bad people. You can give an example of a stranger who opens a door for you or picks up something you may have dropped and returns it to you.
  2. Ask, "What kinds of things should we not tell a stranger?" Solicit a variety of answers, ensuring that things like "address," "phone number," "full name" are mentioned.
  3. Ask, "What kinds of things are OK to tell a stranger?" This question tends to be harder for students to answer. You may get answers like "Hi" or "How are you?" If students are stumped, have them vote with their thumbs about various things like "your favorite color" or "your favorite ice cream flavor." Explain that certain kinds of information won't put students in harm's way.
  4. Ask, "Are there strangers online?" Some students may have played games online before and may offer answers related to those experiences. I've had students as young as kindergarten say that they think there are strangers online because you don't always know who you are talking to online. After a brief discussion of different ways we can connect with strangers online (this can also include game systems), explain that students will be watching a video to learn more about how to handle strangers online.

Video

Have students watch the Internet Safety video at BrainPop, Jr.

Discussion

After the video, ask students to share what they learned from the movie. After soliciting some answers, review vocabulary from the video using the "Word Wall" activity on the site. Then, to wrap up the discussion, complete the "Write About It" activity.

Assessment

  • Print out one of the quizzes (easy or hard, depending on your students) to assess what students have learned.
  • Have students act out scenarios that show their understanding of the main concepts from the video.
  • Have students create an internet safety poster using a drawing program like TuxPaint.
  • Have students act out scenarios to practice handling strangers online.

Next Steps

Discuss places online where students may run into strangers, and let them share stories of times that they "met" a stranger online and how they handled the situation.

More resources

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V. Holliday's picture

This is great information, I have not had the opportunity to use it yet, but I am definitely incorporating it into my curriculum this year. Thank you so much for all of the very insightful information that you shared with us.

Victoria Kempf's picture
Victoria Kempf
Internet Safety Advocate and Parent of teens

This information about online safety is great for parents too, not just educators. Helping kids understand and learn about "stranger danger" is so important in today's digital world. Parents need to be involved too and know who their children are chatting with online, playing games with and friending online. There are many apps, websites and social networks in which kids are able connect with strangers.
Here are some of the apps that parents need to be aware of:
http://www.screenretriever.com/Popular-Moble-Apps-for-Teens

Andrew Semko's picture

Really good plan to build awareness of the kids regarding strangers. Such an education at the school level + some prevention methods like for instance PCWebControl and we've got 99% of security of our kids. Education #1 !

Nausheen Ubaid's picture

It was amazing to go through the lesson plan & the way it was conducted with kindergartners.In today's digital world, helping kids understand and learn about "stranger danger" is very important .
Just like Patricia I am also novice so far technology integration is concerned.We have received gadgets a month back. We are in a trial & error phase. Each lesson integrated with technology is a source of lesson study for all of us. The entire team is sharing reflections with each other. Indeed digital citizenship is a very important aspect.My next step would be sharing this information and lesson with my team of early year teachers. It would really be helpful for parents a swell, as mostly parents are providing opportunities where kids are using online activities without proper monitoring.

Kennedy Hart's picture

This is a great article! As someone who is aspiring to be an elementary school teacher, I think that this is a great tool to use in the classroom! Because of the world we live in today, students need to be aware of the dangers surrounding the Internet. They also need to be prepared if a situation on the Internet arises. This is a great way to do that, and I think when I am a teacher, I will use this every semester, even if it is a refresher for my students.

Jake Snider's picture

This article does cover some of the dangers facing our students on-line. They also start younger and younger. As a soon to be male elementary teacher I would use this program to hopefully enforce what is being taught at home. The idea that it is the teachers responsibility to ensure the safety of the students I understand and the need to enforce this at school or during school activities or lessens is a must. I only wish this could be more parent driven.

Thank you for the materiel's and the great ideas.

Abigail Pollak's picture
Abigail Pollak
Marketing Assistant

Control the online environment. Don't allow kids to use a screen profile or provide personal information online.

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