With kids getting smartphones and other devices at younger and younger ages, it's more important than ever to teach them how to use the internet safely. Whether kids are using social media, searching for information, gaming, or emailing, they should have some basic understanding of how to protect themselves online.
Though teachers and parents are deeply concerned about kids' online safety, we often don't know the best ways to teach these skills. And explaining internet safety effectively will vary according to the age group you're talking to. To help you get started teaching these essential digital citizenship skills in the classroom, we've highlighted our favorite lessons for the different grade bands as well as some tips for how to use them.
Going Places Safely (K-Grade 2)
Younger kids will probably spend less unsupervised time online than those who are older, but it's never too early to introduce a few smart rules. It's also easy to do without scaring them!
In "Going Places Safely," younger elementary schoolers can learn how to think of using the internet as going on a field trip. To stay safe on field trips, kids need to stay with an adult, talk only to people they know, and follow the rules. Ask students which field trips or family outings they've been on. Then start a conversation about how fun these trips are and how you can learn new things and go to exciting places. But if kids don't stay with a grown-up, a field trip can feel a little scary. The same is true when kids are using the internet. Three rules can keep them safe:
- Always talk to your parent or teacher first.
- Talk only to people you know.
- Stick to places that are just right for you.
Talking Safely Online (Grades 3-5)
In upper elementary school, kids are more used to being online and more likely to be unsupervised and have their own internet-ready devices. They're also more likely to be asked for private information online. One of the first rules to teach young kids is that they should never give out any personal information online.
One of our lesson plans for upper elementary school students, "Talking Safely Online," encourages them to think about the difference between online friends and in-person friends. Kids need to understand that it's hard to know if someone is really who they say they are on the internet. Most kids can relate to pretending to be someone else, such as dressing up for Halloween or a costume party or being in a play. Point out to them that they might not know if someone online is telling the truth about how old they are, what grade they're in, or their real name, so it's a good idea to check everything with a grown-up first.
Kids tend to understand that they shouldn't give information like their full name or their address to strangers in real life. When teaching them about online safety, point out that the same is true for the internet. People online might seem really nice, but they're still strangers, and kids shouldn't give them any personal information. If anyone does ask for that information, it's important to find an adult and tell them.
Safe Online Talk (Grades 6-8)
Bullying has always been a concern in middle school, but that can be exacerbated on the internet. Social media, chat rooms, and other forums for online messaging make kids much more vulnerable to bullying and predatory behavior now than ever before. Internet safety begins when students know how to get out of possibly dangerous situations.
"Safe Online Talk," one of our lessons for middle schoolers, includes a video called "Perspectives on Chatting Safely Online" that's an excellent prompt for a class discussion. Teens in the video share personal advice, and your students can talk about what resonates with them and any personal connections that come to mind.
Middle school students can get so caught up in online conversations that they forget they can simply walk away or shut off their devices if things get uncomfortable. It's a good reminder to suggest that kids step away from a questionable online situation to get some perspective. And if they're not comfortable talking to a parent about it, they can talk to a teacher, friend, counselor, or someone else to get their read on the situation.
Risky Online Relationships (Grades 9-12)
High school students are online all the time -- sometimes constantly -- and tend to think of themselves as savvy enough to stay safe in the digital world. However, teens can still benefit from tips and guidance on the topic. While the internet can be a valuable place to have discussions, even about sensitive or controversial topics, it can also lead to awkward or inappropriate situations.
One of our lesson plans for high school, "Risky Online Relationships," points out that the term "online predator" is misleading for many teens, as it implies a frightening stranger who fits a particular stereotype. In reality, many of these predators seem like nice, friendly people at first but may gradually start becoming inappropriate. Anyone chatting with strangers online should always be wary. Also, risky online relationships don't have to involve strangers; they can involve people teens have initially met offline.
Teens should also understand that photos and conversations they may consider to be private can be shared at any time, so they should think carefully about what they're posting or sharing online.
The internet is an amazing tool for students and teachers alike, but building students' awareness of the potential risks and encouraging thoughtful online behavior can help kids stay safe. Starting these conversations early and continuing to have age-appropriate lessons about online safety will go far in helping kids become savvy digital citizens.
For more tips and strategies on how to keep kids safe online, see video, Protect Your Students' Data and Privacy.
Resources >> Browse Articles >> Utilizing Technology
5 Fun Internet Activities for the Classroom
Fun and games on the internet can also be a learning experience that enhances curriculum.
If you want to spice up your lessons and get your students motivated, using the internet is a great way to get started. There are many free sites that offer fun and games for students that teachers can use as educational tools. Some applications focus on reading and science, while other offer tools that you can apply to just about any subject. Don’t be intimidated- try using technology in your classroom.
What it is:
Tumble Books is an incredible site that reads popular stories with kids in an interactive book. The Tumble Books site also has fun quizzes, puzzles, and games that correlate with the different books. Students can have the story read to them, read it on their own, and have individual words sounded out for them. When students are finished with the story they can take a quiz on the book to check for comprehension or write a book review.
How to integrate Tumble Books into the classroom:
Tumble Books is wonderful for emergent readers, remedial reading students, and independent readers. Because the level of support is adjustable, the same Tumble Book can be used in your classroom with every student regardless of reading level. Set up a reading center in the one computer classroom or each student can work at their level in a computer lab setting. These interactive books are popular with students and increase student phonics, reading comprehension, and reading strategies. Encourage students to read with Tumble Books at home as well…a great way to extend the learning day! Students can take a quiz on the book when they are finished or write a book review for other students to read. Everything about this site is amazing! Instead of popping in a video on those indoor recess days, use a projector and have the kids read along with a Tumble Book. Split the class into teams to play the games, they can take turns coming to the computer during their turn.
I have linked to Tumble Books through the Toronto Library. Schools and libraries can subscribe to Tumble Books for a very reasonable yearly subscription. Tumble Books also has a free 30 day trial that you can sign up for before committing to a subscription.
Learn about blogging with your class as an educational tool. Read now.
Connect with sites that offer interactive curriculum enhancement. Read now.
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Geography lessons can be made more fun with these free sites. Read now.
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- h4. Web 2.0
If you don’t know what Web 2.0 is or how to use it, this article is a must read. Read now.
What it is:
Ad Decoder is a web game created by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The game teaches students how to decode advertisements to learn the difference between real and ideal as well as some of the tactics that advertisers use to get them to buy a product. Students flip through a virtual magazine full of advertisements and try to decode the messages the ad sends off. When students scroll over the message the true message pops up.
How to integrate Ad Decoder into the classroom:
Ad Decoder is a great tool to use with students to promote a positive self image and character development. It helps them recognize advertisements and the true messages they send. It can also be used to teach students how to spot ads both on the web and in magazines. (Those advertisers are getting so sneaky…ads are starting to get really good at blending in with the good stuff!) Use the online Ad Decoder tool and as an extension activity, have the students go through other magazines and “decode” the messages in the advertisements. This should spark some very interesting discussion!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has some other quality student activities including food and nutrition, physical activity, safety, and more. Check out the other quality activities and games on the site!
What it is:
Kerpoof is a free online creativity center where students can create their own pictures, stories, and movies. The Kerpoof studio provides students with scenes, characters, and props. Students use these tools to create stories that can be printed out or movies that they write and direct. These can be saved right on the website so students can revisit their picture, story, or movie.
How to integrate Kerpoof into the classroom:
Kerpoof is the creativity tool that can bring your students stories to life. Use Kerpoof as part of your publishing center. Students can use Kerpoof to illustrate their stories, or to create a real movie out of their own writing. Kerpoof would also make a fun writing prompt center in the classroom. This site also provides students with basic movie making skills and would make a nice precursor to an iMovie lesson. Students could plan out their movies on Kerpoof before they begin filming and editing with iMovie. Kerpoof can also be used to teach character education, have students create stories or movies that show emotion and solve problems. Teach the life cycle of a butterfly during science using Kerpoof’s butterfly pavilion scene. User Kerpoof to create life cycle scenes. Students will create a unique login so that they can revisit their stories and movies. Allow students to visit each other’s work during reading time. The site would be best utilized in a computer lab one to one setting. The stories and movies will take too long to just set up as a center in your classroom. If you don’t have access to a computer lab for this activity but have a projector, create an ongoing story or movie as a whole class.
Be sure to visit the teacher area of Kerpoof for some outstanding lessons and ideas for using Kerpoof in the classroom. You can also print out coloring sheets from the teacher area.
What it is:
Childtopia is like 10 websites in one…they have so many cool things going on that I am going to break it down into sections so stay tuned… Childtopia Games is the biggest section with games that are psychologist recommended. Games include: memory games, language, math, skill, creativity, and observation. Each game is broken down by age group making it appropriate for three to nine year olds to play. Games are fun and interactive and reinforce skills that children are learning at school and at home. There are 1400+ games on this site and can be played in 5 languages! The site is completely free but they also offer a CD version available for purchase.
How to integrate Childtopia Games into the classroom:
Childtopia Games are fun and interactive. With 1400 games to choose from you are bound to find one that fits the skill you are working on in any subject area. The games are truly great played individually, as a center, or at home for reinforcement. Childtopia Games are perfect for students who need remedial work. This site is easy for students to navigate and very user friendly.
This is one that you will want to bookmark for easy access!
What it is:
Be Funky is a web 2.0 application that lets students take any picture and transform it into a cartoon or a sketch.
How to integrate Be Funky into the classroom:
Use Be Funky in conjunction with other tools such a Bubblr (see post from the 16th) or software like Comic Life (check out iLearn Technology store for Comic Life). Since Be Funky changes a regular photograph into a cartoon, you can create cartoon comic strips in class. Transform field trip pictures into cartoons and invite students to create a comic strip retell about the field trip. Students can be the star of their own comic strips where they create a comic autobiography. Take pictures during a science experiment and create a comic strip with the scientific process of the experiment.
Be Funky requires you to have an account (this is free but asks for an email address). If you plan on having your students transform the pictures into cartoons you may think about creating one class account for students to use. I wanted to download the cartoon picture to my computer so that I could use them in Comic Life. This is not an option that Be Funky offers so I created my cartoon and then took a screen capture of the cartoon to save it as an image to my computer.
What it is:
Bubblr! is a tool to create comic strips using photos from flickr.com. You can use others public images or images from your own flickr.com account.
How to integrate Bubblr! into the classroom:
Bubblr! would be a wonderful site to use after a class field trip. Have a parent (or yourself) take pictures during the field trip. Create a flickr (www.flickr.com) account for your class. Upload the photos to the flickr account for use in the Bubblr! project. Students can create comic strips with the field trip pictures documenting the learning experience in a fun way. Bubblr! would also be fun to use for character education. Take picture of different scenarios (for example, a student taking a toy away from another student). Upload these pictures to Flickr and have students use Bubblr! to show what the different characters might be thinking and possible solutions to the problem. Bubblr! could also be used to help create a word wall…find pictures that represent words and add the word to the comic. Print out and create a Bubblr! word wall. Pictures can be found by keyword (tags) or by user. When students are finished with their comic strips they have the option of sending them via email, printing, or posting on a blog.
Since Flickr and Bubblr! are online applications, be sure that you have permission to post student pictures on either site.
*iLearn Technology column is dedicated to giving teachers practical tips for integrating technology into the classroom. All of the resources are free to use and simple to implement. This column is a weekly Friday feature, don’t miss it!
Read more about utilizing technology in the classroom.
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Kelly Tenkely graduated from Colorado Christian University with a Liberal Arts degree in Elementary Education. She started teaching in 2003 as a second grade teacher in a public school. In 2004 she made the switch to private school and took the only available opening as the technology teacher. Educational technology has since become her passion. She started a web site for her classroom and soon discovered that other teachers were using the site to aid technology in their classrooms.
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Kelly also trains teaching staff on integrating and implementing technology into the classroom. Training teachers on the use of technology in the classroom led to her blog, ilearntechnology.com, where she blogs daily about integrating technology into the classroom simply and effectively. When she is not blogging, searching for and playing with new technology, or on teaching.monster.com Kelly enjoys scrapbooking, cooking, and spending time with her husband and dog (Aya).
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