Kids are exposed to online dangers now more than ever. According to a recent Google report, teachers say that cyberbullying is the number one safety concern in classrooms. Furthermore, a staggering 20% of children aged 10 to 17 have been asked for sexual pictures or videos online.
That’s why it’s crucial that teachers understand how these online crimes occur and what they can do to prevent them. That’s what this guide is all about.
Read on to discover various Internet safety threats you should be mindful of, including best practices for protecting your students. You’ll learn about online child safety laws, discussing digital safety with kids, managing smartphone use in class, and much more.
Let’s get started.
What does online safety mean?
Online, Internet, or web safety refers to preventive measures taken to protect oneself and others from the potential dangers that exist on the web.
These dangers come in a variety of forms, including:
Why is Internet safety important for teachers?
Teachers must be aware of Internet safety measures to protect their students from predators while under their watch. Teachers can help keep students safe by being aware of potential dangers and teaching them how to remain safe online. Additionally, teachers should monitor their students' online activity to ensure they're not engaging in risky behavior.
Focusing on Internet safety in the classroom is a great way to prevent cyberbullying. Teaching students about responsible online behavior and helping them identify and report cyberbullying if it occurs is a great way to keep children out of harm’s way.
Teaching Internet safety in the classroom helps students become responsible digital citizens. Now, more than ever, students need to understand how to use technology safely and responsibly. By teaching them about internet safety, we can help them develop into well-rounded, responsible adults.
Online safety statistics involving children
It’s crucial to be aware of the statistics surrounding Internet safety and kids as they help us understand how to protect our children while they're online.
Reliable statistics conclude the following:
Nearly half of all children experience cyberbullying at some point in their lives.
According to a Google report, teachers state that cyberbullying is the number one safety concern in classrooms.
One in five children aged 10 to 17 is asked for sexual pictures or videos online.
40% of pupils in grades 4 through 8 have spoken or connected with a stranger online.
The number of self-generated images depicting 7 to 10-year-olds tripled in 2022 as Internet predators increasingly target and groom them.
By being aware of the dangers your pupils face on the web, you can help keep them safe.
Online child safety laws
There are several online child safety laws that help protect kids from potential dangers. As a teacher, it is crucial to be aware of these laws and comply with them.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law passed in 1998 in the United States. This law protects kids from potential online dangers like cyberbullying, predators, etc.
The federal law requires any website that collects personal data from children under 13 to get parental consent.
The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a US-based law passed in 2000. The purpose of the law is to protect kids from cyberbullying, online predators, and other web-related risks.
The law requires that schools and libraries have filtering software to protect children from these dangers.
Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act
The Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act is a relatively new United States law. It requires schools and libraries to have online safety policies and procedures in place to protect kids from web threats.
In accordance with this law, schools and libraries must:
Teach online safety to students and staff.
Monitor students’ Internet use.
Filter web-based content.
Report online safety violations.
Teaching kids about online safety
There are various ways that teachers can educate their students about online safety. Some steps they can take include:
Organizing Internet safety assemblies with students
One way to help educate your students about online safety is to hold assemblies. These assemblies can be a great way to teach all of your students at once about various web-based dangers. Consider discussing the following:
Social media safety
Include Internet safety in your lesson plan
You can also use lesson plans to help educate your students about online safety. These lesson plans can be a great way to get your students thinking about the dangers that lurk on the web and how to avoid them.
Consider presenting lesson plans using a projector or interactive whiteboard to keep students engaged. Here are some ideas of things to include in your Internet safety plans:
Internet Safety Scenarios — These are a great way to get your students thinking about the dangers they might face online. You can present your students with different scenarios and ask how they would react.
Internet Safety Quiz — Quizzing your students is a great way to test their knowledge about online safety. Quiz them at the beginning of the lesson and go over the answers with them at the end of class.
Internet Safety Videos — These are a great way to get your students thinking about online dangers. There are several Internet safety videos available online. Show them to your students and discuss them afterward.
Internet Safety Games — As kids play games a lot, they are a great way to get them thinking about various Internet dangers. You can find plenty of Internet safety games online. Have your students play these games and then discuss what they learned.
Use lesson plans to help educate your students about online safety.
Invite Internet safety speakers to come to your school
Another way to help educate your students about Internet safety is to invite Internet safety experts to your school. These speakers can be a great way to get your students together to learn about the online risks they might face. The speakers should touch on cyberbullying, online predators, social media safety, password protection, and safe smartphone usage.
Discuss digital footprints
When discussing Internet safety, it is also vital to discuss digital footprints because kids need to know that predators can use their virtual impressions to track them. A digital footprint is a trail of data left behind when someone uses the Internet.
Different things can leave digital impressions, including:
Web browsing history
Students must understand that anything they do online can potentially leave behind a digital footprint. They should also know that removing something on the web can be complicated.
Here's how you can discuss digital traces with your students:
Ask them to imagine how their digital footprint looks.
Ask them how they would like their digital print to look.
Quiz them regarding how they can control their digital footprints.
Present them with real-life scenarios
Students need to understand that web-based dangers are not just theoretical; some people face real threats when they are online.
You can help your students understand this by presenting them with real-life situations. Provide them with scenarios and ask them how they would react.
Some scenarios you can discuss with your students include:
A friend asks you to send them a naked picture.
You receive a message from a stranger asking you for personal information.
You see someone bullying someone online.
You find out someone has been spreading rumors about you on social media.
Involve parents or guardians
Another way to help ensure your students remain safe online is to involve their parents or guardians. You can do this by:
Sending parents Internet safety information.
Holding online safety meetings for parents.
Talking to parents about web safety at parent-teacher conferences.
Use course management systems
Course management systems (CMS) — not to be confused with content management systems — are software applications that help educators create and manage online courses. A CMS provides a variety of features, including:
Many course management systems include features that help keep students safe online. For example, they allow teachers to set up filters that block students from accessing certain websites.
Teachers can also use these systems to monitor student activity. This can help identify students facing cyberbullying or other Internet safety issues.
Some of the most popular course management systems include:
Course management systems (CMSs) include features to keep students safe online.
Stick with websites verified with COPPA/CIPA compliance
When looking for an online environment to use with your students, ensure that it adheres to COPPA/CIPA. Some of the most popular websites in compliance with COPA/CIPA include:
National Geographic Kids
Additionally, ensure that the websites you use in the classroom are CIPA/E-rate eligible. This means they’re approved for use in schools and libraries.
Some of the most popular CIPA/E-rate eligible websites include:
Protect your digital reputation
In addition to teaching your students about online safety, you must protect your digital reputation. Here's how to do it:
Keep your personal information private.
Be careful about what you post on the web.
Monitor what others say about you in online spaces such as the news or social media. Set up a Google Alert on your name.
Create a school policy, and have students sign it
Another way to help ensure Internet safety in your classroom is to create a school policy. These documents outline the digital safety rules and expectations for all students and staff.
Some of the things you can include in a school policy include:
Enable web filters on school computers at all times.
Students are to only use approved online spaces.
All students will report any online safety concerns to a teacher or administrator.
Once finished, create a student pledge including:
I will not give out my personal information on the web.
I will not meet up with someone I met online.
I will not bully others online.
I will tell a grown-up if I see something that makes me feel uncomfortable.
Once you have created the student pledge, you can have your students sign it.
A student pledge ensures they understand and agree to the Internet safety rules you have set.
Encourage students to be Internet safety ambassadors
Once they have learned about online safety, you can encourage students to be ambassadors in their schools and communities. Some of the things that Internet safety ambassadors do include:
Talking to other students
Leading activities regarding online safety
Creating web safety materials
Giving speeches about Internet safety
Smartphone use in the classroom
With the increasing use of smartphones in the classroom, setting rules for their use is essential. Some things to include in your smartphone policy are as follows:
All students will keep their Android-based phones or iPhones on silent at all times.
All students will put away their phones when asked to do so by a teacher.
All students will only use approved apps while in the classroom.
All students will not use their phones to take pictures or videos of other students without their permission.
Social media education
Another vital part of online safety is social media education. This means teaching students to use social media safely and responsibly.
Remember that most social media platforms have an age requirement of 13 and above. So, ensure your students develop the necessary digital citizenship skills before joining them.
Teach your students the following regarding social media:
Only follow or accept friend requests from people you know.
Never share personal information on networking sites.
Think before you post. Once you share something on social media, it’s there forever.
Tell an adult if you're a victim of cyberbullying or harmful material.
Students should develop digital citizenship skills before joining social media platforms.
Cyberbullying is one of the most common Internet safety concerns for teachers. Educating your students about cyberbullying and preventing it is vital because this abusive behavior can harm kids and even lead to suicide.
Cyberbullying refers to bullying that takes place online or through electronic devices. It can include sending mean text messages, posting hurtful comments on social media, and spreading rumors about someone in cyberspace.
Some of the things that you can do to prevent cyberbullying in your classroom are:
Monitor student web activity.
Instruct your students about online safety and cyberbullying.
Turn your classroom into a safe and nurturing environment.
Be open to talking to your students about any web safety concerns they have.
Tell students to report any cyberbullying incidents to a teacher or administrator.
Guide students to safe content
It is vital to guide your students to safe and appropriate content online. This means only approving websites that are educationally appropriate for use in the classroom. Here are some tips:
Check age restrictions on websites and apps. Make sure that the websites and apps you approve are appropriate for the age of your students.
Monitor Internet usage in your classroom. Keep an eye on what your students are doing online. If you see them accessing inappropriate content, talk to them about it.
Teach students how to search online safely. Instruct your students how to use safe search engines and evaluate the results of their searches.
Always check the age restrictions on websites and apps your students use.
Teach students to avoid Internet scams (phishing)
Teach your students how to identify digital scams like phishing schemes. Phishing is when someone tries to trick you into giving them your personal information.
Typically, scammers send messages via email or text containing links to websites. Although websites may look familiar (like your bank's website), they’re fake and dangerous. If you give them your username and password, you're giving your personal information to the scammer.
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of phishing
Make sure the URL (web address) of the websites you visit begins with "https://"
Look for a padlock icon in the address bar when you visit a website.
If you get an email that sounds like it's from someone you know but are unsure if it’s from that person, don't click on any links it contains.
Never give your passwords to anyone.
If you feel like something might be a scam, ask a grown-up.
Keep students safe from online predators
There are people out there that want to hurt kids. They might ask for private information to locate and try to meet them in person. To avoid these situations, it is essential to teach your students about cyber predators and how to avoid them. To help keep your students safe from Internet predators, consider the following:
Teach them about these types of predators.
Tell them never to give out their personal information online.
Tell your students never to talk to strangers online.
Tell your students never to meet someone they encountered online in person.
Monitor your students' online activity.
Tell students they should report any suspicious behavior to a teacher or administrator.
Teach your students about cyber predators and how to avoid them
Cybersafety resources for teachers
There are several Internet safety resources that teachers can use to help keep their students remain safe online. Some of these resources include:
The Internet Safety Project — Provides online videos and digital citizenship lessons for first and second graders.
NetSmartzKids — This resource provides online videos and lessons that enhance student learning.
Common Sense Media — Common Sense Media offers tips for parents and teachers on keeping kids safe online. They also have a helpline to report suspicious behavior.
Common Sense Education — Provides digital citizenship lessons for youngsters based on issues and digital difficulties students face today.
iKeepSafe — This service verifies the technology qualified professionals use with youngsters in educational settings.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children — Provides resources and information about web safety for educators, including lesson plans and activities.
Use antivirus software and VPNs
Antivirus software is one of the best ways to stay safe online. Antivirus software helps protect your computer from malware like spyware, trojans, ransomware, and other online threats. It's also beneficial for keeping your personal information secure.
There are many antivirus programs available. The following are some of the most popular:
Bitdefender — Bitdefender is a well-known cross-platform antivirus solution with an impressive 25-year history. It has consistently been named one of the best antivirus suites worldwide by several reputable publications like AV-Comparatives and AV-Test.
Norton — Norton is one of the most feature-rich antivirus programs available. Norton includes everything you need to protect your computer and data. Its fast VPN, backup utilities, and dependable parental control software are notable features.
McAfee — McAfee is one of the most popular antivirus solutions across all platforms. Its powerful antimalware engine, security measures, and performance utilities ensure that your computer remains secure and well-maintained.
Intego — Intego's cybersecurity package is one of the best Mac antivirus solutions on the market. It's a near-ideal match for individuals who enjoy playing video games, working, or casually browsing the web.
In addition to using antivirus software, it's also wise to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs encrypt your Internet traffic and hide your online activity from hackers or services that collect personal data. Reliable VPNs include CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, and PrivateInternetAccess.
Using an antivirus software solution is one of the best ways to protect students online.
Internet safety for teachers — key takeaways
By being aware of the dangers online and taking steps to protect themselves and their students, teachers can create a safer Internet experience for everyone involved.
Here's a summary of the best Internet safety tips for teachers:
Organize online safety assemblies with your students.
Include web safety in your lesson plans.
Invite Internet safety speakers to come to your school.
Discuss digital footprints with students.
Present concrete situations to students.
Involve parents or guardians.
Use course management systems.
Use COPPA/CIPA compliant websites.
Protect your digital reputation.
Create a school policy, and get students to agree to it.
Encourage your students to be Internet safety ambassadors.
Teach students about smartphone use in the classroom.
Tell students about social media safety.
Teach students how to prevent and deal with cyberbullying.
Keep students safe from online predators.
Use resources such as Common Sense Media
Octav Fedor (Cybersecurity Editor)
Octav is a cybersecurity researcher and writer at AntivirusGuide. When he’s not publishing his honest opinions about security software online, he likes to learn about programming, watch astronomy documentaries, and participate in general knowledge competitions.