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Teaching Students Safe and Responsible Online Practices

By S. Michael Putman
 | Jan 22, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-stk146244rke_x300In a recent study, nearly 8 out of 10 parents reported their kids watch videos or play games on an electronic device. As the parent of a 14-year-old, I would fall into this demographic, as my son seems to be perpetually on his phone or computer. Given my profession, I have stressed to him that he needs to be cautious when online on any device, and we have an open technology policy, meaning I can examine his devices at any time. Yet, even with my careful approach, we found out how quickly a mouse click can turn into a very problematic situation.

As a bit of background, for a recent birthday, my son received a computer that we selected specifically for his online gaming. He was in the process of searching for content and game downloads when a pop-up window appeared on the screen, informing him that his “computer was at risk.” The message indicated that he needed to speak with a representative to fix the problem. Taken aback, my son obeyed the message. Within 10 minutes, he had made two phone calls and allowed an unknown individual to access his new computer remotely. Realizing something did not feel quite right, he called me on a different phone, and I told him to shut off the computer immediately and hang up on whoever was impersonating technical support.

Thankfully all appears OK, but this situation underscores the need for parents and teachers to remain vigilant and educate children on the nine themes associated with digital citizenship. Various documents provide some foundational support in this process (see AASL, ISTE, or Manitoba, Canada’s LwICT,); however, my recommendation for a truly comprehensive resource is Common Sense Education’s website. Given my space constraints, I’ll only briefly describe elements associated with the Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence and Family Toolbox, but would suggest you give yourself a few hours to explore the many resources on the website.

The Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence represents a free curriculum built around eight categories, including Internet safety, privacy and security, relationships and communication, and information literacy. In total, there are 80 lessons in units that teach skills ranging from sending an e-mail to identifying cyberbullying within grade bands of K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. The lessons are aligned with the Common Core Standards as well as the AASL and ISTE standards, providing a solid basis for their use in the classroom. Each lesson is available in .pdf format in English and Spanish, yet there is the potential for greater interactivity using digital workbooks in iBooks or accessing content through Nearpod, although these require purchase. On the other hand, the Family Toolbox was created to enable connections between home and school. Resources, which are designed for parents, include videos, conversation-starters, and guidelines that will help them talk to children about how to make good digital choices. I especially like the Family Activity Worksheets, as each contains a three-step activity that involves a child and adult working together to learn a skill or concept related to the lessons within the scope and sequence.

As I think back on the situation with my son, we both learned a valuable lesson and, in retrospect, I should have done more to prepare him. If there is any solace, it’s that through our conversations he suspected something was wrong during the interaction with “tech support” and knew to call me. Given a recent report revealing 72% of parents expressed concern about teens’ online interactions, I think it’s imperative for educators to highlight resources like those found on Common Sense Education and continue to help parents hold conversations with their children by providing other resources focused on Internet safety (e.g., OnGuardOnline.gov, Kids.gov, and NewSmartz Workshop). Given our children and youths’ use of digital resources is unlikely to diminish, we must do everything possible to enable them to make wise and responsible online choices.

For additional information and resources from Pew Research and Common Sense Media, visit:

S. Michael Putman, PhD, is an associate professor and interim chairperson in the Reading and Elementary Education Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His areas of research include the impact of teacher preparation and professional development on teacher self-efficacy, student dispositions toward online inquiry, and the effective use of technology within teaching practices.

 This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

1 comment

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  1. <a href="http://www.yahoo.com/">yahoo</a> | Jan 27, 2016
    Good post

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