The internet can be a wonderful, educational resource for teachers, parents and students. Unfortunately, it also comes with a fair amount of risk, particularly when it comes to young learners. We want your students to have a happy and healthy relationship with the internet, but remember that if you ever feel anything serious is happening to a student, talk to your supervisor, the student’s parents, and even the police if necessary.
These five tips will help you develop strategies to keep your students safe from a variety of potential risks they may encounter online.
1. Classroom internet safety contract
Firstly, you need to make sure that your students are aware of internet safety issues. It’s a good idea to dedicate part of a class to talking about how to behave on the internet at school and at home.
One way to do this is to develop an internet safety contract with your class. When you do this, involve your students in a whole class activity as it will be more memorable, impactful and engaging than if you simply told them what not to do.
Mindmap map safe and unsafe internet behavior on the board (for example, talking with strangers is unsafe, researching homework on SchoolTube is safe). Once you have a good list, put students in groups to make posters in English, which you can then display on your classroom walls. These will serve as class contract and as a gentle reminder of how to act online.
2. A safety strategy
Make sure to praise good safety practices throughout the school year. Younger children love collecting stickers and gold stars for safe behavior reinforce the seriousness of your message.
However, if necessary, you should also respond to instances where students ignore the established best practices.The best way, if you feel your students have put themselves in danger online, is to speak with their parents so that they are aware of the issue at home.
3. Child-safe resources
When using the internet in the classroom and at home, point your students to safe online resources. Instead of allowing younger students to research on YouTube, for example, which could have inappropriate material, direct them to SchoolTube, which is a more child-friendly video site, instead.
Also, if you use tablets in the classroom, aim to use child-centered learning apps. This will give the children some fun screen time, and they will be less tempted to stray into more dangerous online territory. Voki, for example, allows children to create their own talking, animated characters – giving them the chance to play and practice English safely.
4. Open door policy
Cyberbullying and other issues can have a terrible effect on your students’ confidence and self-esteem. Pay attention to changes in behavior and speak to students and their parents if necessary.
If a child is having a negative experience online, one of the biggest problems is that they can feel alone, scared and unable to deal with it. So make sure that your students know that they can come and speak to you (and other teachers in the school), if they feel they are being mistreated or in any way hurt online.
For further support, read more on the NSPCC website.
5. Research and stay up to date
As a teacher, you should stay up to date with online trends and be aware of the issues your students might be facing, so that you can help them and their parents. Thankfully, there are lots of useful online internet safety resources to help you do this.
Internet Matters provides a range of internet safety resources, which are useful for parents and teachers.
Net Aware is aimed at concerned parents and teachers and provides the latest in social media news.
The NSPCC offers advice and support to help you prevent or deal with online abuse, bullying and inappropriate behavior.