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The Importance of Emphasizing Online Safety to Students

The Importance of Emphasizing Online Safety to Students

Three steps to teach your students safe online behavior, whether at school or at home.

By Phyllis Schneck

The Internet and digital technology touch almost every aspect of our daily lives. Our children use technology more and more each day, and at younger ages than ever. According to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, 70 percent of kids have a mobile phone and 90 percent of kids have a mobile phone, tablet, or computer in their bedrooms.

This use of technology brings many benefits—and many potential dangers for students.

Just as we teach our children not to talk to strangers and to look both ways before crossing the street, we need to teach children how to behave safely and appropriately online. This is part of helping children utilize technology for enjoyment while still keeping safe.

Here are three lesson themes that teachers and educators can focus on when teaching online safety.

Lesson #1: Own Your Online Presence

Children view privacy differently than most adults. They post everything online and stay in constant contact with their friends. But children often don’t realize their actions online have lasting and potentially negative consequences.

For example, do your students know that what they post online today can affect them in the future? Do they understand that sharing personal information online can expose them to cyber predators, identity theft, and other online threats? Some students may not even realize that personal information such as their name, home address, school name, or pictures of themselves and their friends is “sensitive” and needs to be protected.

Students also need to understand that everything they post online, from pictures to status updates, creates a “permanent record” of their lives. As students get older, their online presence can impact college choices or their future careers. College admissions officers and job recruiters often check candidates’ social media accounts. It’s important for students to take ownership of how they portray themselves—their personal “brand”—online.

Lesson #2: Resist Cyberbullying

As children spend more time online, bullying and harassment move online too. In 2015, 34 percent of students reported that they had been victims of cyberbullying, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.

One of the first lessons students learn in school is to treat others with respect. Reinforce the idea that this rule applies online as well. Students must learn to treat others online just as they would want to be treated.

Children often forget that communicating via text, on social media sites, or in e-mail is just like having a conversation with someone in real life. As a result they sometimes behave in ways or say things online they would never do or say in person. We must teach our children that when they communicate online, they are affecting other people and must be polite.

Lesson #3: Cybersecurity Is a Shared Responsibility

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign—a national awareness program to help all Americans stay safer and more secure online—is committed to supporting the effort to keep children safe. The campaign provides awareness resources to strengthen the public’s understanding of cybersecurity, making them available to schools, students, and educational staff.

The Stop.Think.Connect. toolkit provides educators a wealth of resources, including tip cards and presentations ideal for bringing online safety lessons into classrooms. Other resources include the Stop.Think.Connect. Parents and Educators Tip Card, the Stop.Think.Connect. Social Media Guides, and the Chatting with Kids about Being Online guide.

Please contact the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign at stopthinkconnect@dhs.gov or visit www.DHS.gov/StopThinkConnect if you have questions or would like more information.

Dr. Phyllis Schneck is the deputy under secretary for cybersecurity and communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Photo: MediaBakery

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