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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

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

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.

Next Steps

Have students create an Internet Safety poster using a drawing program like TuxPaint. Have students act out scenarios to practice handling strangers online.

More resources

Comments (16)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

My pleasure, Kristi! That is the reason why I shared it!

A Hanzal's picture

I love this! I am a reading teacher and see the value in this lesson even with my small groups. It is so important that even the littlest people using the internet understand internet safety and are refreshed with it often. Thanks for sharing such a great and valuable lesson!!

heatherie73's picture
heatherie73
1st grade teacher from St. Louis, Missouri

I love that you shared a lesson that can be used for students as young as kindergarten! I am a first grade teacher and this type of lesson is very relatable to that age group. Your 3 considerations are so important to keep in mind. How often would you teach these types of lessons to drive the message home? Have you ever held a parent workshop on the topic of Internet safety?

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

Hi Heather,

I only taught this lesson once, but then was able to use it as a reference point for activities and conversations we had during the year. It built a base for vocabulary and attitudes toward how we interact with others online. I have held an Internet Safety Night for parents. It was a really great conversation and was well received by parents.

Patricia Castillo's picture
Patricia Castillo
Kindergarten teacher in Miami,FL

This is a great post. Although I consider myself a veteran kindergarten teacher, I see myself as a novice when it comes to technology integration in my kindergarten class. I am sure many teachers feel the same way and appreciate detailed lessons like the one you provided. Have you found any other internet safety videos appropriate for primary learners that does not require a membership?

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

First, I have to say that we all are novices at some point. I have fumbled my way through many trials and errors (and still do!) when it comes to bringing technology into the classroom. I haven't used any other videos, aside from the interactive CyberPigs game (http://www2.media-awareness.ca/english/games/privacy_playground/start.html). I do find Common Sense Media's curriculum (see link at the end of my post) a helpful guide.

Ellen Z.'s picture
Ellen Z.
Reading Specialist from Hellertown, PA

Mary Beth,

"Stranger Danger" is something that needs to be addressed and at a young age. I like your presentation ideas! It may also be advisable to let the students know that the websites they get on at school have secure settings and that their teachers help to protect their privacy and security while they are at school, but that their parents also want to be conscious of the security of the websites they use.

I let my younger children (of which I have four) use only sites that meet my security requirements. One of their favorites that we tried this summer was Cubert's Cube. It is a site which promotes creative writing, is very user-friendly, and has great security settings. We also tried Sumdog which they had school accounts already in place.

It isn't always easy to have peace-of-mind as a parent when it comes to having your child on the Internet, but with wisdom, preparation, and moderation you can protect their security. I'm in the belief that the parents need to learn Internet safety along with their children.

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 !

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