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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 (15)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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Tammy B.'s picture

Well rounded selection of Resources for Digital Citizenship. It is unfortunate that internet Safety Month is in June. Many districts are on Summer Vacation. Lots a great resources here for parents, teachers, and students. Garfield CyberBullying- learninglab.org, and Welcome to the Web- teachingideas.co.uk/welcome/start.htm are two great resources for teaching internet safety to elementary school students. Garfield is also available as a free app on the iPad- great for elementary students part of a 1:1 initiative.

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

Tammy I'm so glad you mentioned Garfield & learninglab.org! I don't know how I left that one out since I use it every year! I agree that June is an unfortunate month for Internet Safety. The logical month is September, and I seem to remember that it used to be at the beginning of the school year. I wonder why the change was made.

Cindy Moore's picture
Cindy Moore
I am a kindergarten teacher from Bloomington, Illinois

Mary Beth- I agree that as in real life "stranger danger" regarding technology is also an important issue to address with young students. So far, I have used technology in the classroom on the Smart Board to teach lessons, in literacy centers for educational games, for reading intervention, etc. As I learn more about the uses of educational technology (blogs, wikis, twitter) I would like to incorporate these into my instruction. Therefore, internet safety is critical. Thank you for the example lesson. It will be a great start in helping me teach my students to use the internet safely. You take a very simple, logical approach and I think the students will quickly catch on!

Janice Conger's picture

Mary Beth, now that those of us getting e-rate funds are federally mandated to teach Internet safety K-12, I really appreciate you writing this post and giving me a sample of what an Internet Safety lesson should look like. I have been using the original two Faux Paw the Techno Cat videos from ikeepsake.org and the younger kids love them! However, I wanted something with a little more meat for next year as everyone moves up a grade. BrainPop is a great resource and it will be a great start in helping me expand my Internet Safety lessons in the next school year. I also plan to use Edmodo with older students so they can practice, not just be a bystander, Internet safety live!

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

Practice is so important! It took me a month to teach my 5th & 6th graders the difference between commenting and IM-ing. They would type "hi" and sit back and wonder why the person hadn't responded! Thankfully, Linda Yollis has a great video on writing quality comments. We also had to learn about how to talk to people when we couldn't see them. Such important skills!

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