How to Create an Internet Safety Lesson Plan
Teaching internet safety to students isn’t difficult but it requires careful planning and an understanding of how to help kids grasp the importance of digital safety.
An internet safety plan is a plan that helps kids engage in critical thinking and use safe habits when they are online, with an eye toward helping them become good digital citizens.
The nature of internet safety plans has changed over time. In the beginning, kids tended to get a long list of online Dos and Don’ts to follow without necessarily understanding the “why” behind the list. Today, the focus is more on teaching kids to think for themselves because we understand that many online dilemmas are nuanced and don’t easily fall into a good vs bad scenario. It’s not as simple as having kids use secure passwords or teaching them about stranger danger.
Keep in mind that kids of different ages should have safety plans that are tailored to their maturity level and capabilities. You shouldn’t give a kindergarten student the same safety plan as a sixth grader, or give a sixth grader the same plan as someone in high school.
Here are some things that may help you inform students about safety online:
Learn about COPPA requirements. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires websites geared toward kids under 13 to adhere to guidelines about data collection and sharing. Sticking to COPPA websites can take a lot of the guesswork out of protecting kids online and may be useful for both parents and teachers.
Integrate online activities. Kids are most likely to learn about online safety and retain what they learn when online activities are integrated in the classroom. Instead of having kids write in a daily journal, one option would be to have them start a blog and integrate lessons about safety into teaching them how to manage the blog.
Discuss digital footprints. Learning how to be a good digital citizen is important for everyone, not just kids. Teachers should help kids understand that anything they put online can be found and will be there forever, ie, how to control their digital footprint.
Create a student pledge. A student pledge is a useful tool because it requires students to agree to terms of engagement for online activity. Things to put in the pledge might include a promise to tell an adult if they see something that scares them or makes them uncomfortable, an agreement not to meet anyone online in real life without a guardian, and a promise to respect others and not engage in cyberbullying.
Present real-life situations as examples. Kids may respond better to specific, real-life examples than to abstract situations. Presenting them with a concrete example can help them understand why internet safety is important.
- Focus on kindness. Both kids and adults sometimes forget that there are real people on the other side of online interactions. Reminding kids that they shouldn’t say anything to a person online that they wouldn’t say face-to-face can help to prevent cyberbullying.
- Make internet safety fun. Incorporating fun and gamification into teaching kids about online safety is a good way to maximize their engagement.
- Involve parents and guardians. It’s important to keep parents and guardians informed of what their kids are doing online. You may want to send home documentation to teach parents about internet safety and let kids know that their parents will be informed of their online activity at school.
Sample Internet Safety Plan
To help you understand what might go into an internet safety plan, here’s an example of a basic internet safety plan for middle school or junior high students:
How data is collected. Teach kids how and why “big data” companies collect information and what they do with it, tying it in to keeping their personal information safe.
Social media safety. The benefits and risks of social media, including how it can impact students’ relationships both online and IRL.
Digital footprints. A digital footprint isn’t just about information kids share. It’s also about which sites they visit and what they do while they’re there, and kids in junior high are old enough to understand.
Sexting. Kids are becoming sexually active early and it’s important for kids who may be developing relationships that go beyond friendship to understand the risks of sexting or sharing intimate photos.
An internet safety plan should spell out the details about each topic covered and provide kids with guidelines to help them navigate related situations. As students get older, safety plans should build upon what they’ve already learned while introducing them to more complex topics.
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