George Lucas Educational Foundation
Digital Citizenship

How to Teach Internet Safety to Younger Elementary Students

A lesson plan for helping students as young as kindergarten begin to understand how to be safe online.
A teacher discusses what her students are seeing on their computer monitors.
A teacher discusses what her students are seeing on their computer monitors.

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Teaching Digital Citizenship in the Elementary Classroom.” Now 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’s 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 knowledge about how to handle 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 and 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 if they don’t have the skills necessary for handling tough situations.

Protecting Private Information Online

This is a lesson I’ve 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. You’ll need a computer and internet access, and it’s helpful to have a projector or interactive whiteboard so these questions can be projected on the screen during the discussion. Ask students these questions:

  • “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 them, but not all strangers are bad people. You can mention examples like a stranger who opens a door for you or picks up something you dropped and returns it to you.
  • “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.
  • “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 them in harm’s way.
  • “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. After a brief discussion of different ways we can connect with strangers online (which can include game systems), show them a video about how to handle strangers online.

Have students watch the Internet Safety video at BrainPOP Jr. Afterward, ask them to share what they learned from the movie. After soliciting some answers, review vocabulary from the video using the Word Play activity on the site. Next, have them complete the Write About It activity.

There are a few ways to check and make sure your students have understood the lesson:

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

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saraht's picture

This is a very useful and important article. Mary, thank you for writing this amazing lesson plan regarding this topic that has escalated the past years. I enjoyed reading through this article so much I was also able to learn many new things. As a future teacher I will be sure to incorporate lessons like these that are extremely important for younger children. As you mentioned young students know the phrase "stranger danger" but don't really know about the hazards that strangers can have on them. As technology evolves so does the generations w now see very young children making use of technology and as adults it is our job to make sure these children are aware of the danger there is when using technology. I love the sensitivity you put to this topic and the fact that you remained unbiased and provided both the harm strangers can have on young children as well as making them realize that not all strangers are bad. This article is a jewel and teachers should be aware of this. Great job Mary!

Christopher Ralston's picture

This was an awesome article. It is so vital nowadays to make sure all students understand the importance of internet safety and what better way of doing this then to begin with younger students. I liked the lesson plan created here. It seems like it would benefit the students to learn internet safety. Thank you for sharing Mary.

Exoplismos Edu's picture
Exoplismos Edu
Εξοπλισμός Φροντιστηρίων και Σχολείων

This is a very amazing article. It is a lesson to be taught by us all parents. Our children when they are born hold a cell phone in hand.

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