Whether you are a teacher offering help and advice, or a concerned parent who is looking out for the welfare of her child, it is important that children are made aware of the pitfalls of using the Internet and how they can best protect themselves.
In school you will find that there will be a policy in place that will outline the guidelines for Internet use and a statement made by the school that advocates the procedures that they will follow to keep your child safe. Apart from the usual firewalls and the blocking of certain sites, the school will have a set of rules on the wall to remind pupils how they are expected to behave when surfing the net. The teacher will also give verbal reminders to pupils on how the computer should be used and allow children the opportunity to air any concerns with her.
Although children do have a fair amount of protection within the system at school, teachers are very much aware of the fact that when the same children go home, they are then able to access the Internet on a much wider basis.
To create an Internet safety lesson for children:
Starter: Play a true or myth game. Read out a number of sentences and either using hands on head or hips or tick charts ask the children to distinguish what they think is true or what they think is false. The age and understanding on the children will dictate to how sophisticated the language will need to be. Tell the children it is important that they question and check things if they are unsure about anything.
Activity 1: Lead the class in discussion. Talk about the great things that can be found on the Internet. Do they know of any sites that are bad? What sites do they like? Is the site that they go on safe to use? How can they tell if a site is good or bad?
Discuss privacy and when and to whom they give personal details to. Ask them to remember that it is not good to give their details to anyone that they meet online even if it is another child. Discuss cyber-bullying. Perhaps some children may not be aware of the fact that they are bullies themselves.
Ask what they would do if someone asks them to meet in person. How they would advise their friends if they had a problem but can’t go to an adult?
Activity 2: Using the computer, ask children to work in groups or with a partner, to practice narrowing down a search option. Ask them to find as many sites as possible that will yield the best information and to show evidence that they have been able to use a selection of websites to help verify facts.
Plenary: Give the groups the opportunity to discuss their findings with the rest of the class and to give their own opinion on the best websites that they found. Discuss the features of the websites and what they do to keep people safe, such as keeping email addresses hidden and offering a secure payment option.
Homework: Ask the children to design a “How to be safe on the Internet” poster and offer 10 team points for the best submission voted for by the class.
As an extension to the activities or as a subject for further discussion, pupils can be asked to use their new knowledge to look for extra information about the websites and who actually runs them. They can search the site for contact details; FAQ’s and to look for a clue in the website address itself.
In conclusion, children should not be dissuaded from using the Internet which can be a rich source of information and makes a great networking tool if used sensibly. It is important that teachers encourage children to take more control over their surfing experience, learn to ask the right questions about anything that they are not sure about and keep a close family member informed about the extent of their surfing experiences.