Internet Safety

The Internet can be an important and challenging source for students and teachers in the Language Arts classroom. The technology allows for research, communication, and educational opportunities running the gamut from exploring authors to posting material on a classroom blog. However, Internet access can also be problematic. The potential for cyberbullying is real with a third of young people reporting that they have been ignored or disrespected online. Polls show that more than a third of young Internet users have been exposed to unwanted, unsolicited material. Through the concerted efforts of teachers, parents, and students, these problems can be overcome. Students can enjoy the advantages of the Internet without worrying about the potential pitfalls.

What Can Teachers Do?

Teachers can help lead the charge for Internet safety. With more computers in the classroom, teachers can set the stage by implementing a variety of steps.

  • Include Internet education as part of technology education at all grade levels.
  • Use free guides for Internet safety, including videos and interactive Web sites.
  • Create a classroom guide to Internet safety with student input.
  • Develop a “contract.” – Outline how students can use the Internet, what they cannot do, and the consequences for breaking the rules.
  • Oversee school or classroom Web sites or blogs.
    • Respect the interests of the school system. Post only appropriate materials.
    • Do not use students’ full names. You might even consider using nicknames.
    • Get written permission from parents to use students’ photos on a classroom or school Web site.

The Role of Parents

According to national teen surveys, about 33 percent of young people reported that their parents know “very little” or “nothing” about what their children do online. Twenty-two percent of those interviewed said that their parents had never discussed Internet safety. What can parents do?

  • Become computer literate and understand the potential pitfalls of using the Internet.
  • Install filtering software that can block Internet access to questionable sites, stop illegal file sharing, stop inappropriate chat, and monitor where children are going online.
  • Put the home computer in an open and visible place. Take computers out of children’s bedrooms.
  • Do not allow children to have their own e-mail address.
  • Talk, talk, talk to children about Internet safety.
  • Spend time together online. Enjoy the wonders of the Internet while encouraging safe use.

Suggestions for Kids

Kids are spending a lot of time online. And the older they get, the more time they spend. In fact, many young people spend twice as much time in front of a computer screen or watching TV as they do in the classroom. What guidelines might this computer generation follow to keep them safe when surfing the Internet?

Understand which Web sites to visit and which sites are off-limits.

  • If someone writes something mean or something that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t respond.
  • Talk to an adult if the “intruder” persists.
  • Never agree to meet a stranger in person. Even if you have e-mailed back and forth and feel you know the person, never take the chance.
  • Stay as anonymous as possible. Keep all private information private. Never give out your
    • full name
    • home or school address
    • phone number
    • names of family members
    • passwords
    • photos without adult permission
  • If you don’t recognize the sender of a document or file that needs to be downloaded, delete it without opening it. It could cause a computer virus.

The Internet can feel anonymous, giving some kids permission to write or do things they normally would never consider. The job of teachers and parents is to underscore that nothing on the Internet is truly private, that going online is like going out in public. We all need to remember that the safety rules kids already know apply to the Internet as well.