What advice would you give educators about Internet Safety and working with students online?

Miss Loose’s blog left the following comment on a post:

We recently had a presentation on Internet safety through our State Attorney General’s Office.

The special agent advised us that there shouldn’t be any info given that could help predators identify where our students live and go to school.

I am just wondering what your opinion is regarding this.

I understand the practicality and reality of using my full name, but I’m worried about how it could link me to my students and, in turn, allow predators to link up to my students.

Anyone could search my name and find out where I teach, what grade I teach, etc. I look forward to hearing your thoughts or directing me to other discussion of this topic. Thanks so much.

And it got me thinking……

There are widely differing opinions on Internet Safety, building digital literacy skills and working with students online.

It would be so much better if we all shared opinions and advice so we could all gain ideas from each other.

We would love to hear your thoughts and advice:

  1. What advice would you give to educators new to working with students online?
  2. What advice do you give your students about Internet Safety?  How do you educate them on this?  What resources do you use?
  3. How much identifying do you allow (or are you allowed) for yourself and your students?
  4. What other aspects should we be talking about?

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Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

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25 Responses

  1. I had to think long and hard about this as I have taken my students with me on the internet through blogging and various ther tech projects. So I came up with several resources that I have used to discuss safety, as well as informing parents about blogging et.al.

    These resources are found on my blog at http://www.mrspripp.blogspot.com

    One is the disucssion of kidblogs, including safety contract and letter to parents http://mrspripp.blogspot.com/2010/08/so-you-want-to-use-kidblog.html

    And then I used the analogy of the internet like the mall, which worked so well
    http://mrspripp.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-internet-is-like-mall.html

  2. I think the biggest thing is … you can’t just do one off lessons on cyber safety. Cyber safety is not a separate subject.

    Through being heavily involved in blogging, my grade two class has opportunities almost every day to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting.

    When we’re writing blog posts and comments together, a wide range of issues come up incidentally. The discussions are so rich and purposeful and my students now have an excellent understanding of the do’s and don’ts of internet safety.

    We do sometimes do more formal “cyber safety” lessons using some of the excellent online resources around, however I find ongoing incidental lessons the more beneficial.

    Unlike many classes, I identify students by first name and photo. Of course I gain parent permission for this and 100% of my parents have been supportive. Last year, I did not publish photos of students and I think there were more cons than pros. The parents and the classes we work with around the world are able to connect more with our blog and student work by seeing who the authors are.

    Having clear blogging guidelines are crucial and at the beginning of the year, I do a lot of work to ensure all parents and students are clear on these guidelines.

    Blogging is such a fantastic avenue for teachers and students to discuss online safety in an authentic way which is just one of the many reasons why I ♥ blogging so much!

  3. Sue Waters says:

    @Pernille Ripp Thanks for sharing how you approach Internet safety and for sharing your resources. I really love your analogy of the internet like the mall because it takes the students from a topic they already understand and know to applying those same principles online

    I think your analogy is so good that we could expand it to both Internet Safetey and what is appropriate to discuss online. A common challenge is not considering what they should say and shouldn’t say online (i.e. nasty things, being rude etc). I normally use the analogy of if you wouldn’t say it in front of 1,000 people then don’t say it online.

    @Kathleen Thanks so much for your thoughts on cybersafety. Your point about “Through being heavily involved in blogging, my grade two class has opportunities almost every day to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting.” really is the criticial part. It does need to be ongoing and doing it in an authentic setting is constantly enforcing appropriate behaviour. Would love to see your kids blogging with their teacher next year — I so hope that happens. Wouldn’t it be lovely to follow their journey through the grades?

  4. Fran Lo says:

    I agree. This isn’t a separate unit or lesson. It’s ongoing all the time.

    I work with middle schoolers. I’ve observed that they every year they are more savvy. Also, more interested in learning to be safe – less blase about it. They’ve been approached by strangers on Facebook and it creeps them out.

  5. @ Sue, I agree – it would be fantastic for my students to be supported with blogging next year. However, I am sceptical! I am slowly getting more teachers at my school into blogging but it’s not widely used.
    At least my students have had a great year learning about internet safety (and a whole heap of other things) which should set them in good stead for the future! I’m not really looking forward to starting from scratch again next year. We have so much to cover!

  6. This is such an interesting discussion, I too firmly agree with Kathleen that blogging with students is the ideal way to integrate cyber safety in an authentic, real and meaningful way. We have had specific lessons too but many of the teachable moments have come through dealing with and responding to comments.
    My students have become internet aware this year due their presence on the web. We have worked on the idea of creating a true and real digital footprint as well. So they are aware that whatever they post remains somewhere at all times.
    We also made the decision earlier this year not to include any student photographs in school uniform, so my class site only has photos if they do not show their faces or are on a mufti excursion. I am though not happy with this and feel personally that we should include photographs next year. It will be interesting to see if I am supported in this when I propose it next year.

  7. Mistea says:

    Kathleen I too would not like to face into starting a whole new class off next year blogging! Fortunately because we are a very small school, it means I will still have some ‘experts’ on board with me. And I think some of the ones I send on are already ear marked by their next year teacher to spread the good work of blogging with the other students!

    We use first names and try not to link particular names to photos, although sometimes we slip up on that. The thing is I have students, (some) who have joined facebook, obviously giving false ages. I thought you had to be 13 years but maybe I have that wrong. So I agree with you all, cyber safety is ongoing, and blogging is one great way to help students be aware.
    The avatars are great as well.

    I am looking forward to the new year already!

  8. @ Henrietta, that is really similar to me. In 2008 and 2009 I didn’t include photos but, like you, I wasn’t happy with that and I had the feeling that that the students and parents weren’t happy either! How boring and unauthentic not to be able to have “real” photos.

    I love having the freedom to put photos on this year and it has made our blog so much more meaningful to families and our blogging buddies.

    Good luck with your proposal. I think if you make it clear that you have solid guidelines about what information can and cannot be posted on your blog then your school/parents might feel comfortable with the idea.

  9. Internet safety and students- I have been meaning to write on this topic for some time now, because honestly I don’t see what all the hype is about. I don’t understand what, exactly it is, that everyone is so afraid of. Maybe I am a bit naïve, no I am naïve there is no doubt about that, but I don’t see the danger. I am often left asking, “What exactly are parents, teachers, and schoolboards afraid will happen if Jane mentions that her last name is Doe and that she lives in Wisconsin? What will happen if she posts a picture of herself at a basketball game, or posts a video of her science project?” Before you start educating me on digital footprints and lasting impressions, I am not saying that we allow students a wild Facebook inspired free-for-all. I am simply saying that instead of telling student not to share anything personal, we speak with them about what to post why, and the effects it will have on them and their communities…

    Continued: http://www.jabizraisdana.com/blog/2010/11/shackled-by-fear/

  10. leighnewton says:

    For a range of local factors I’ve chosen to be fairly cautious.
    * No photos of students at all
    * Code names only used: e.g. miss7c2 (which could be Christine who is in Grade 6, Cate could be miss7c1)

    On the more liberal side of things:
    * Initials of my school are used
    * Teacher name is used

    Students are now at the stage where comments and posts can happen at will. However, all comments and posts spark an email to me, the administrator. I’ve not had cause yet to censor anyone, but I’m thinking that this condition means that students could use their first name. This would certainly create a better sense of community.

  11. Sue Waters says:

    Thanks Fran Lo, Henrietta, Mistea, Kathleen, Jabiz and Leigh Newton for all joining and expanding conversation. Great post Jabiz — thanks for taking the time to write it and I’ll pop over in a minute to also add a comment!

    So here’s some of my thoughts.

    Firstly I need to clarify they are my thoughts. I’ve adjusted them over the years as I’ve reflected on what I’m learning. What I’m trying to say is it doesn’t necessarily make them right and feel free for us to all debate them so we can reflect together.

    But saying all that I am in a unique situation due to my job role that I do see and hear about more than most.

    And apologies it will be a long comment :(

    I totally agree with Jabiz I can’t see what all the hype is about. Unfortunately the traditional media has done a good job of telling the general population about what they need to be afraid of without discussing the positive benefits or comparing the dangers of the real world like Jabiz has done in his post – http://www.jabizraisdana.com/blog/2010/11/shackled-by-fear/

    For me issues like whether to use student photographs or not is more about protecting educators from having problems with parents or administrators who have major concerns about cyber-predators. I know this will cause debate but using photographs taken from behind is a safe compromise.

    My next thought is I think Sue Wyatt’s approach of modelling is good. In most situations she’ll use Miss W or Tasteach not because of predators but to model the approach she wants her students to take. Similarly she doesn’t use her own image because her choice is for her students to use avatars they create.

    Blogging and working online with your students is really important. As Fran Lo says “This isn’t a separate unit or lesson. It’s ongoing all the time.”

    And my views on this may cause some debate. But it is a good idea to set up process that help you monitor your students interactions. Leigh Newton making all comments and posts spark an email to him is a good approach. The gmail+ method for student accounts is a good way to manage student accounts. As adults we are more likely to spot cyber-predators than students.

  12. Gail Desler says:

    With many school districts responding to parent and teacher Internet predator hysteria by blocking any kind of social networking, we (my friend and colleague Kathleen Watt and I) thought a good strategy would be to start an online conversation and community to promote the safe (we’re actually more concerned about keeping kids safe from each other and from themselves than from strangers) and ethical use of the Internet – http://blogs.egusd.net/2webwatchers .

    Our readership is not that great (yet), but it’s a step towards educating rather than blocking.

  13. @ Sue,

    Debatable or not, I think you’re right with what you’re saying.

    I couldn’t agree more with this “For me issues like whether to use student photographs or not is more about protecting educators from having problems with parents or administrators who have major concerns about cyber-predators.”

    All the teachers around the world I know who don’t use photos etc have that rule in place to keep their parents or admin happy!

    I think another important point to make is – I don’t think it matters that much what your actual policies are on photos/avatars/no images etc as long as you’re having conversations and doing something!

    I think there are SO many teachers out there who are doing nothing in regards to teaching/discussing internet safety issues and ironically, you’re probably preaching to the converted with this blog post as your readers are probably the ones who are doing something!

  14. Great conversations guys. I think really what is happening is that the notion of private and public are changing and parents and the administrators who are paid to keep them happy are still stuck thinking about the old notion of privacy.

    The idea of not talking to strangers has spilled over to the Internet, which is understandable for young children, but what about Middle and High School students?

    I can’t say this enough, if we want these students to network and create online communities than they have to talk to strangers. That is the nature of the game The secret is that they are equipped with strategies and skills to be safe and successful.

    Great conversation here. Thanks Sue.

  15. Yasin says:

    Personally I think the issue of cyber bullying is far more prevalent and thus is due more concern than ‘online predators’.

    The rise of cyber bullying simply is not acceptable.

  16. Sue Waters says:

    @Kathleen Agreed “there are SO many teachers out there who are doing nothing in regards to teaching/discussing internet safety issues”. The Edublogger has an unusual mixture of readers from those starting out to experienced bloggers.

    Definitely those that are taking the time to read the comments are the converted and are using it as an opportunity to reflect of their own thoughts/processes. Whereas those that need to be gaining from this conversation are less likely to be reading the comments. So it is likely I will need to follow it up with a post.

    @Jabiz Definitely a great conversation and thanks for being part of it. Is it the old notion of privacy or is it fear or the sense that they can’t relate to how the world has changed and that you can post/interact on the Internet?

    I think the message shouldn’t that you don’t talk to strangers on the Internet but like everything in life you do need to examine it with a critical eye. As you say “The secret is that they are equipped with strategies and skills to be safe and successful”. Our students are already doing this at home via online gaming, X-Box live, Facebook etc. It’s much better we show them the strategies and skills then what can happen if we don’t.

    @Yasin Totally agree and I’ve been asked for more assistance with bullying and troll like behaviour than cyber predators.

    What advice would you give to tackle the issues of cyber bullying?

    How do the rest of you deal with it? Or should I say has it or hasn’t it been an issue?

  17. Sue Waters says:

    @Gail I’m so sorry! For some reason in my responses I missed respondng to your comment. I’m missing my threaded comments (don’t ask :( )

    Your 2.webwatchers blog (http://blogs.egusd.net/2webwatchers/) is amazing and even more impressive that it has been going since 2008.

    Have you thought about maybe feeding it onto the homepage of your Campus site? Alternatively we could bring the feed into the dashboard of your Campus site or you could use Admin Tips to link to specific posts – like we do on Edublogs.

    Let me know if you want to try any of these options so I can assist you with this!

  18. missloosesblog says:

    Everyone, thank you so much for your insightful comments and links to resources. I teach in a very conservative district. As Sue mentioned, my questions arose after a presentation by a representative from the PA attorney general’s office came and spoke to parents and teachers. I’ve seen the Dateline NBC “To Catch A Predator” specials, but to watch a video of a 13 year old girl from our area who was ultimately abducted, tortured, raped, and beaten was a completely different story. Does the media hype these situations? Possibly. But even the fact that it happened is enough to make me cautious of how I use technology with my students. I completely agree that cyber safety is not a one-shot lesson, but needs to be ongoing and authentic. I know that kids need to be aware of how to behave, respond, react, and protect themselves in their everyday “real” lives as well as online. You can’t deny that the internet has opened up both tremendous opportunities as well as more of those “real life” dangers—> bullying, appropriate social and interpersonal behavior, and dealing with unknown situations. Predators have additional ways of targeting children and whether that is hyped by the media or not, I have a responsibility to ensure my students are safe. Again, I appreciate the responses from everyone and I look forward to looking at all of the links that were posted. I will begin blogging with my students in 2011 and I appreciate the support and resources that Edublogs provides to help me make decisions about my use of technology.

  19. Gail Desler says:

    Hello Ms Loose,

    Over here on the West Coast, I attended the same session last year – with my superintendent. With the Attorney Generals’ focus on missing, sexually abused, and/or murdered children, we left the session feeling ill and emotionally spent. We also agreed NOT to invite the presenters to our district. What parent would want their child on the Internet after an hour of hearing about and graphically view horrifying case after horrifying case?!

    While we recognize that online predators pose a threat (about 1% of child abuse/sexual abuse cases) and certainly do not dismiss the need to teach our students about safety issues, such as “grooming,” we also want all students to learn to use the Internet effectively and ethically. Our middle school counselors, for instance, report that over 60% of their case load involves handling and defusing cyberbullying and “sexting” issues – mainly from smart phones. Pretty much 100% of the time, the parents are clueless as to how their children are using the Internet.

    Because digital citizenship should be built into media literacy, and media literacy is a must-have skill for the 21st century, Internet safety is best taught at school (not at home – sorry, parents). For consistency sake, my district has adopted the i-SAFE curriculum for K12. There are other programs available, such as Common Sense Media – http://www.commonsensemedia.org/ (one of my favorites).

    Hope this helps,
    Gail

    • Tony Heywood says:

      I was speaking to my eldest son about this and how much they are taught at school. He is 11 years old. The truth of it in the UK its not a great deal. Nowhere near enough. I have found a great non-profit site in the UK that does provide lots of information and advice on internet related topics.

      http://www.knowhthenet.org.uk

      it is worth checking out.

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