Technology is everywhere. It’s on the bus, at the dinner table, in classrooms. Many elementary classrooms have a dedicated class set of Chromebooks or iPads. There are many exciting learning opportunities available through technology, but for teachers, it’s another learning tool to juggle and incorporate.
One of the first lessons we must teach students about internet usage is how to stay safe while online.
Here’s a few tips to keep your students and classroom a safe place for internet use.
1. Read and reference your school district Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).
First, make sure you are familiar with your school and district’s guidelines for proper internet use. You can either download your school district’s AUP online or get it from a school administrator. Besides informing you of what activity on the school computers is acceptable and what is not, the AUP will have great information you can use in your lessons on internet and computer use.
2. Teach students about legal issues surrounding internet use.
The internet is a massive tool that can lead to legal issues, if not handled properly. Most students know what Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok are, and they probably own a smartphone or tablet where they google things and play games. But very few know about key legal issues related to their internet use.
As a teacher, be sure your students are not just learning about how to use the internet, but also about plagiarism and copyright issues and Creative Commons. Teach them how to effectively use the internet to perform research.
3. Have a lesson on internet safety.
Actually, have several lessons on internet safety. In this day and age, your students are not just accessing the internet from school. Many are using the internet at home or with friends, and they may not be supervised. Information at the Federal Trade Commission’s Kids Online page, CommonSense.org and NetSmartz can be good resources for internet safety tips and lesson ideas.
4. Have a clear electronics policy in place.
No matter how much you care about your students, we all know that if given free rein of a tablet or laptop, any kid from the age of 5 to 18 (and beyond!) is going to return the device at the end of the day with the thing loaded with a variety of farm heroes, exploding candies, pictures of doe-eyed kids with flower crowns, etc.
So first things first, when you embrace technology in your classroom, lay out a clear electronics policy. What are the consequences of excessive or inappropriate technology use? What tools are okay to use and which are strictly off limits? Coordinate with your school or district IT professional and determine what constitutes “acceptable use” in your school.
5. Use your powers for good.
With recent hurricanes, wildfires and major earthquakes destroying thousands of homes, people all over the world need help. No student is too small or too young to make a significant impact. Consider using technology to teach your students the value of humanitarian aid. No matter the subject you teach, there are things your students can do to leverage technology to help people around the world.
For example, students can review vocabulary, study languages, math and sciences at FreeRice.com. Every right answer equates to a donation of 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme. Teachers and students can organize and help crowdfunding campaigns through FirstGiving and GoFundMe. DonorsChoose is another one that is specifically for schools — for classroom projects that need funding or to support fellow educators.
Students can use these tools, and many others, to become more aware of what is going on in the world, or they can use them to facilitate projects of their own.
6. Have an open-door policy about cyberbullying and internet safety.
Ultimately, you need to be a resource for students and their parents if questions arise. A shocking 59% of young people in the United States report that they have experienced cyberbullying.
If a student or their parents come to you with cyberbullying or internet safety concerns, make sure to address them. Get administration involved if possible. Encourage your students and their parents to talk to you if there is a concern about internet safety.
7. Protect your own online identity.
As a teacher, you have a responsibility to be a role model to your students, offline as well as online. Make sure that you have strong passwords in place, and don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your students or their parents to see. Never add students or their parents as friends or followers on your personal social media profiles.
Essentially, teaching your students about safe internet use is extremely important, whether you are using the internet in your classroom or not. As a teacher, you need to be a trusted source for your students so they can stay safe — online and off.