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Internet Safety: Teaching Students to Think Before They Post

Internet Safety: Teaching Students to Think Before They Post

By Jackie Myers

What you post on social media follows you forever—as many adults know. However, students don’t consider much beyond the present moment. This has lead to nearly half of kids regretting something they posted on social media, according to McAfee.

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Because of this, it’s becoming more important for educators to teach students about Internet safety, specifically proper use of social media. Here are a few ways you can help them understand the lasting impact that even the simplest social media post can have on their lives.

More: Pros and Cons of Teaching Social Media in the Classroom

Stranger Danger

Remember, you’re talking to an entire network of people

Students are often connected with more people they don’t know, than people they do. And, once they hit share, their post goes out to their network, their network’s network, and so on. Remind students that if they wouldn’t share information with a stranger on the street, they shouldn’t share it online.

Lesson Idea

Write five potential posts on the board and ask students which ones are not appropriate to share. Be sure to write examples that include personal information; 55 percent of teens have given their personal information to someone they don‘t know, including both photos and physical descriptions, according to GuardChild.com.

Person to Person

Pretend you’re face-to-face

Social networks give students courage they don’t have in face-to-face settings. Sometimes that courage can lead to negative and dangerous consequences or situations. In most cases, this is considered cyber-bullying, which 68 percent of teens agree is a problem.

Lesson Idea

Encourage your students to refrain from any posting anything they wouldn’t say to a person’s face. Have each student write down something they consider a cyber-bullying statement and put all of their “submissions” in a hat.

Mix them up and read every one out loud. Keep this activity anonymous so students are encouraged to be honest, opening an important flow of conversation about this aspect of posting on social media.

Feelings and Emotions

Find a safe place to let your feelings out

Everyone has their feelings hurt at some point, whether online or in person. However, turning to social networks to lash out is never a good idea and only ends up hurting other people. Teach students that social networks are not outlets for anger.

Lesson Idea

Ask students for suggestions about alternative ways to let their feelings out that are safer and more private. Write these on the board or create a poster of ideas to hang in the classroom.

More: 10 Must-Follow Social Media Accounts for Teachers to Follow

Clear as Day

Consider how your words will be perceived

There’s often no way to decipher tone when reading something online, which means something said with sarcasm, for example, can be read as being serious. Once that plays out, a person is left apologizing for something that wasn’t intended. Teach students about how to think through what they’re saying, considering how it might be perceived by other people.

Lesson Idea

Write the same post five different ways and say it out loud once. Ask students to share how they perceive each one, including the one you said out loud, and how the written statement compares to the spoken.

Be Smart

Ask yourself: Will this get me in trouble?

Posts to social networks are fair game for evidence in police reports, court cases and more. Once a post is out there for the world to see, no matter how many times you delete it or your account, the post might never go away.

Lesson Idea

Tell your students about the real-life stories of teenagers who have faced serious consequences for their actions on social networks. Afterward, have them break into groups to discuss about how they would have handled the various situations

Students need to understand that, as fun as social networks can be, if misused, all the fun goes out the door. As part of teaching students about Internet safety and how to be good digital citizens, don’t forget to teach them how to be responsible users of online social networks. All it takes is one irresponsible post for a life to change for the worst.

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