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Study: Too few schools are teaching cyber safety

Teachers agree that students should learn safe and responsible internet use, but fewer than half say these subjects are required in their districts

Teaching about safe and responsible internet use is increasingly important for today's digital natives.

Teaching about safe and responsible internet use is increasingly important for today's digital natives.

Students aren’t getting enough instruction in school on how to use technology and the internet in a safe and responsible manner, a new poll suggests.

Released by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and supported by Microsoft Corp., the survey found fewer than one-fourth of U.S. teachers have spent more than six hours on any kind of professional development related to cyber ethics, safety, or security within the last 12 months.

More than half of teachers reported their school districts do not require these subjects as part of the K-12 curriculum, and only 35 percent said they’ve taught proper online conduct to their students.

Despite the lack of training and consistent teaching of internet safety, the survey shows that America’s teachers, school administrators, and technology coordinators strongly agree that cyber ethics, safety, and security should be taught in schools.

The poll, conducted by Zogby International, surveyed more than 1,000 teachers, 400 school administrators, and 200 technology coordinators. Results were analyzed in conjunction with the Maryland-based research group Educational Technology Policy, Research, and Outreach (ETPRO).

Key findings of the survey include:

• More than 90 percent of technology coordinators, school administrators, and teachers support teaching cyber ethics, safety, and security in schools. Yet, only 35 percent of teachers and just over half of school administrators report that their school districts require the teaching of these subjects in their curriculum.

• Lessons on these topics aren’t being integrated very often into everyday instructional activities. For example, only 27 percent of teachers have taught about the safe use of social networks in the past 12 months; only 18 percent have taught about online scams, fraud, and social engineering; and only 19 percent have taught about safe passwords. Overall, 32 percent of teachers said they have not taught cyber ethics, and 44 percent of teachers said they have not taught cyber safety or security.

• Teachers and administrators have different opinions as to who should be responsible for educating students about these topics. While 72 percent of teachers said parents bear the primary responsibility for teaching these topics, 51 percent of school administrators said teachers are mostly responsible.

“The study illuminates that there is no cohesive effort to [give] young people the education they need to safely and securely navigate the digital age and prepare them as digital citizens and employees,” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director. “Unfortunately, we are not meeting the needs of schools, teachers, or students.”

Kaiser added: “President Obama, in his Cyberspace Policy Review released last year, specifically called for a ‘K-12 cyber security education program for digital safety, ethics, and security.’ Now is the time for a national consensus to move forward to achieve that goal.”

The survey also found a high reliance on shielding students from potentially harmful material online instead of teaching behaviors for safe and secure internet use.

More than 90 percent of schools have built up digital defenses, such as filtering and blocking social-networking web sites, to protect children on school networks. While these defenses might help reduce the online risks that children face at school, they don’t prepare students to act more safely and responsibly when accessing the internet at home or via mobile devices, NCSA said.

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Comments:

  1. N Koch

    February 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

    When it comes to using the internet it is of the utmost importince that children use the internet in a safe way, and unfortunately parents don’t teach children at home. I strongly agree that cyber ethics, safety, and security should be taught in schools.

  2. N Koch

    February 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

    When it comes to using the internet it is of the utmost importince that children use the internet in a safe way, and unfortunately parents don’t teach children at home. I strongly agree that cyber ethics, safety, and security should be taught in schools.

  3. gerancherc

    February 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I’d be very interested in know the sample size for this survey. In my experience the philosophy regarding who should teach Internet safety is quite the opposite. Additionally, it has been my experience that administrators either out of fear or ignorance stand in the way of teachers who try to integrate collaborative tools into their teaching.

  4. gerancherc

    February 26, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I’d be very interested in know the sample size for this survey. In my experience the philosophy regarding who should teach Internet safety is quite the opposite. Additionally, it has been my experience that administrators either out of fear or ignorance stand in the way of teachers who try to integrate collaborative tools into their teaching.

  5. brentnall.trudy.j

    February 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    It is important that cyber ethic and cybersafety are taught at school, but it is also important that all teachers no matter what they teach, integrate it into their curriculum and that it is not taught as a ‘one off’ subject.

  6. brentnall.trudy.j

    February 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    It is important that cyber ethic and cybersafety are taught at school, but it is also important that all teachers no matter what they teach, integrate it into their curriculum and that it is not taught as a ‘one off’ subject.

  7. scdornberg650

    February 27, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I agree that internet safety is very important, but what has happened to parents teaching their children what is right and wrong? Why do schools have to teach everything? You wonder why students don’t do as well today…maybe schools are required to teach things that should be taught at home? I taught my children not to cross a road without looking, why would I let them get on the internet and not teach them how to use it and knowing how myself?

  8. scdornberg650

    February 27, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I agree that internet safety is very important, but what has happened to parents teaching their children what is right and wrong? Why do schools have to teach everything? You wonder why students don’t do as well today…maybe schools are required to teach things that should be taught at home? I taught my children not to cross a road without looking, why would I let them get on the internet and not teach them how to use it and knowing how myself?

  9. aftmarlow

    February 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I’m sorry but just what things do you NOT want schools to teach? My goodness, teachers are overwhelmed with all these new standards, race-to-the-top, and worried about losing their jobs if students do not do well on tests in mathematics and language arts….if it’s not on the test then maybe, just maybe, parents could teach a thing or two!

  10. aftmarlow

    February 28, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I’m sorry but just what things do you NOT want schools to teach? My goodness, teachers are overwhelmed with all these new standards, race-to-the-top, and worried about losing their jobs if students do not do well on tests in mathematics and language arts….if it’s not on the test then maybe, just maybe, parents could teach a thing or two!

  11. fencer

    March 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I disagree w/ Kreuger’s comment about being uncomfortable with this being the main reason it’s not taught. I think it is at least equally split between that & not enough time/materials readily available to them.This would be a lot easier if teachers were allowed to “stray” from the scripted programs & use readings about these issues to teach reading & writing skills!

  12. fencer

    March 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I disagree w/ Kreuger’s comment about being uncomfortable with this being the main reason it’s not taught. I think it is at least equally split between that & not enough time/materials readily available to them.This would be a lot easier if teachers were allowed to “stray” from the scripted programs & use readings about these issues to teach reading & writing skills!

  13. edecker674

    March 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I think the issue is not who teaches, but who gets the blame when something goes down wrong. Everyone knows what a kid can access both within the classroom and from home. One is mostly controlled for them via network filtering, and the other is totally out of their hands. If instruction is not followed, is it the teacher’s fault? Yet I admit, I have heard a teacher say, “You can’t get that from here at school……wait till you get home.?

    This study heightens the disconnect between how Administrations and Teachers think. The Administration says, “Of course it is our job to ensure all students are safely taught.”

    On the teacher side, it is easy to subtly remind students daily to “be careful out there;” and include casual warning of the dangers when assignments brush against the Internet. While most teachers probably do this, they probably do not have a specific number of hours set aside in their curriculum planning for “Internet Safety.” They might be constantly teaching it, but answered no in the survey, because it is not in the “Standards for 7th grade Math”…but the administrator would say, “prove that you did teach them” when something happens and the blame rolls back around.

    Can we all do a better job? Sure we can. Let’s just not go down the easy road of “blame the teacher” yet again.

  14. edecker674

    March 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I think the issue is not who teaches, but who gets the blame when something goes down wrong. Everyone knows what a kid can access both within the classroom and from home. One is mostly controlled for them via network filtering, and the other is totally out of their hands. If instruction is not followed, is it the teacher’s fault? Yet I admit, I have heard a teacher say, “You can’t get that from here at school……wait till you get home.?

    This study heightens the disconnect between how Administrations and Teachers think. The Administration says, “Of course it is our job to ensure all students are safely taught.”

    On the teacher side, it is easy to subtly remind students daily to “be careful out there;” and include casual warning of the dangers when assignments brush against the Internet. While most teachers probably do this, they probably do not have a specific number of hours set aside in their curriculum planning for “Internet Safety.” They might be constantly teaching it, but answered no in the survey, because it is not in the “Standards for 7th grade Math”…but the administrator would say, “prove that you did teach them” when something happens and the blame rolls back around.

    Can we all do a better job? Sure we can. Let’s just not go down the easy road of “blame the teacher” yet again.

  15. dottiro

    March 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I agree that we need to be teaching cyber safety in schools. However, it should be up to each district to establish a policy and a “lesson plan” that allows all teaching staff to be on the same page. This is very serious business and leaving it up to the individuals means opening doors to personal liability.

  16. dottiro

    March 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I agree that we need to be teaching cyber safety in schools. However, it should be up to each district to establish a policy and a “lesson plan” that allows all teaching staff to be on the same page. This is very serious business and leaving it up to the individuals means opening doors to personal liability.