Recently, I spoke with a technology coordinator who had just completed a monthlong Internet Safety unit for fifth graders. Here is what she had to say about her students and the lessons learned:
I think the most interesting thing is how stunned I was with how much our students are already experiencing the Internet, email, chat rooms, etc. Not all of the students, but at least half of them, by fifth grade have experienced all of those things, and two-thirds of them have experienced some of them. They also demonstrated a very healthy level of fear and I could tell that at this age they were all ears. That was another reason that I felt totally encouraged about adding it to our curriculum, because I know in a couple of years many of them will think they "know it all" and won't be so attentive.
The Internet has changed the way students learn and communicate. With the click of a mouse, they can instant message one another, work together on projects, download all kinds of multimedia files, and post to blogs, Web sites, and RSS feeds. Access to people and information enhances instruction, but what happens when the "dark side of the Internet" sneaks around the corner and into the classroom or home? You have seen the stories on television about chat rooms, read about incidents in the newspaper where kids have been lured to meet strangers, and read the research in magazines about social networking and cyberbullying. (See these articles from Multimedia & Internet@Schools magazine: Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a New Security Concern for Teens and Schools, May/June 2006, and Social Networking, Part 2: A Toolkit for Teachers, July/August 2006.) Keeping kids safe must be an ongoing effort through awareness, education, and supervision. Consider implementing an Internet Safety program in your school or community.
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