10 ways schools are teaching internet safety

"The student’s job is to figure out which website is the hoax. After students have looked at all three websites and figured out which one is the hoax, they share what they found with their classmates," says one reader in describing a hands-on lesson.

As internet use has become a daily part of most students’ lives, students must know how to protect themselves and their identity at all times—especially when teachers and parents aren’t there to help them.

Teaching students about internet safety has been important for as long as the internet has existed, but it’s in the spotlight this year in particular as schools get ready to apply for 2012 eRate discounts on their telecommunications services and internet access. That’s because applicants must amend their existing internet safety policies by July 1, 2012, to include information about how they are educating students about proper online behavior, cyber bullying, and social networking sites.

To get an idea how educators are approaching this issue, we recently asked readers: “Do you teach internet safety at your school or district? If so, how?”

With thanks to our knowledgeable readers, we’ve compiled some of the most innovative and detail-rich answers here.

1. Through gaming

“Some of the classes I teach are in an online environment. The first week of the class [addresses] internet safety and time management. I feel that, since I send the students to many sites, and they are working from home, this is a very important part of the class. I use material from CyberSmart! for my content classes. I also teach a 3D game for the middle school called Quest Atlantis out of Indiana University, and internet safety is the first requirement … before the students are granted full rights in the game. I also include three additional internet safety classes that are available as part of the game. Information about it can be found at http://atlantis.crlt.indiana.edu/. They do, however, require that teachers go through [professional development] before allowing them to register a class in the program.” —Zena Johnston

“I teach internet safety through the technology curriculum. I use a trio of internet safety games from WebWiseKids: Missing, It’s Your Call, Mirror Image. These games cover cyber bullying, sexting, and predators. It keeps the students engaged as well as offering them hands-on work.” —Debra Smith, Gracemont High School, Okla.

“I teach lessons on internet safety using the FBI-SOS scavenger hunt and on internet privacy using the Jo Cool Jo Fool website. Jo Cool Jo Fool has some dated areas, but the same concepts covered apply today. During the FBI-SOS scavenger hunt, we have commercial breaks periodically and I show the old Citibank identity theft commercials from YouTube. I also have my students figure out how to locate my college-age son via the information that can be found online. Creepy! I am a middle school librarian who co-teaches these lessons with our keyboarding teachers. It gives the kids vital knowledge and little breaks from the keyboarding class.” —Miriam Rone

Meris Stansbury

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