Strategy Guide

Online Safety

6 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Teaching with Technology

About this Strategy Guide

This Strategy Guide describes the strategies involved in ensuring that students understand how to be safe when they participate in online discussion and join social networks.

Research Basis

The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies explains that readers and writers need to "build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally."  The challenge of teaching students to meet this goal is ensuring that students understand how to build these relationships safely.

As students shift from sharing their texts in the classroom to discussing their ideas online, they move from a very controlled environment to one where anyone-friend or foe-is just a click away. Teaching students about online safety in the classroom helps prepare them for the demands of 21st century life by directly addressing the ethical responsibilities of participating in increasingly complex and dynamic online literacy communities.

Strategy in Practice

Students can produce podcasts that fit any genre, including audio diary entries, analytical commentary on readings or current events, informational recordings that explain concepts, and persuasive and argumentative statements.

  • Confirm that students have signed Acceptable Use Policy statements on file, or pass out copies of the Model Acceptable Use Policy or your school system's Acceptable Use Policy and require that the information is turned in before students create online e-mail addresses, profiles, or other Internet resources.

  • Review and test all sites before sharing them with students. Anyone can post a web page or comment on someone else's site. You're bound to run into some material online that will be inappropriate for your classes. Checking the sites in advance can help avoid problems while you are working in the classroom with students.

  • Discuss how to safely complete online profiles and safely choose online usernames and passwords, covering these topics:

o Remind students never to include personal information that could be used to identify themselves by others online. Even seemingly innocent e-mail addresses might tell someone else your real name, where you go to school or work, where you live.

o Have students consider how the information that is posted online might be interpreted by others, including teachers, friends, family members, potential employers, and college administrators.

  • Use the Online Profile Tips to review best practices in posting information online, and ask students to refer to the tips whenever they are creating or updating their profiles. Extend the use of the tips by discussing how the information also applies to blog posts, email messages, and online discussion forums.

  • Role-play some situations that students may encounter online, such as being asked for their home address or being bullied. Discuss how students should react to maintain their safety. Remind students that if they are ever unsure about what to do in a situation, it's best to ask a trusted adult.

  • Review students' profiles, usernames, and other information they post online regularly to ensure that they are making safe choices. Ask students to edit or delete any information that may place them in danger from online predators or stalkers.

  • Consider supplementing your discussion with materials from NetSmartz, a site produced by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys and Girls Clubs of America for children aged 5 to 17. This Internet safety collection includes vignettes, printable materials, videos, and other interactive resources, all designed to be used by educators and law enforcement officials to teach children and teens how to be safe online.

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