Internet Safety: Scare tactics NOT effective

A federal online safety task force issued a report that made clear that scare tactics are not an effective method to teaching youth about internet safety.  I wrote about an excellent resource on internet safety for teachers and parents in March. 

The Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG), created by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said that proper education about appropriate online behavior and the use of digital media is the best way to ensure children are safe online.  According to the report, the key to internet safety is teaching youth about digital citizenship and media literacy.  Some recommendations are provided: 

  • On-going education on digital citizenship and media literacy – i.e. these should be common strands across all subject areas and grade levels, not an isolated unit in technology class
  • Parental involvement – yet again, involving parents leads to greater results
  • “Protective layers” such as filtering software – keep in mind, however, that these filters are not everywhere (i.e. not on grandma’s computer) so teaching proper behaviors is more important
  • Model positive behavior vs. scare tactics – particularly when it comes to social media.  Teachers must harness the power of these learning communities rather than shutting them out for fear of misuse.  OSTWG said, “Unless new media are used in schools and within families, youth are on their own in figuring out the ethics, social norms, and civil behaviors that enable good citizenship in the online part of their media use and lives.  We are not suggesting that schools allow kids to update social network profiles in class, but rather that schools find ways to incorporate educational social-technology tools in the classroom to enhance learning and provide pre-K-12 educators with an opportunity to, in the process of teaching regular subjects, teach the constructive, mindful use of social media enabled by digital citizenship and new-media-literacy training—using the media and technologies familiar and compelling to students.”

Not sure where to begin with regards to internet safety education?’s EasyTech unit on Online Safety is an excellent, research-based resource.  Designed for students in grades K-8, the curriculum addresses all the essential topics (cyber bullying, sexting, online scams, file sharing, etc.) and includes assessment.  EasyTech is a great way to introduce the concepts of internet safety to students and teachers which can then be reinforced in all classrooms.  To learn more about EasyTech’s Online Safety curriculum, visit their website or view this pdf or call us at 487-5437.  Helping children be safe online is our shared responsibility.