The internet has become an indispensable tool in education. During the pandemic, young children spent as much as a year in distance learning. This included kindergarteners and even preschool students. Technology has also become part of children’s social lives. Children are, on average, 12 years old when they get their first mobile device, and more than a third of children under 2 years old already use technology. It is important to teach young students how to be responsible online. Here is what educators can do to teach responsible technology use in elementary schools.

Teach Students to Be Mindful of Online Dangers and Viruses 

Malware is an umbrella term for computer viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Cyber attackers develop malware with the intention of gaining access to an unauthorized network or using the system to their advantage. Viruses and other trojan horses are most common today. The video “Meet the Malwares” explains the dangers of computer viruses to children.

Show Students How to Determine the Credibility of a Source

In order to develop digital literacy, educators must teach students how to verify credible sources. It is important to place emphasis on the five E’s when researching a topic on the internet: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. There are several worksheets and lesson plans educators can offer their students on the topic. Digital Literacy Reliable Sources, Evaluating Online Sources, and Website Evaluation Lessons are just a few. These lesson plans use Venn diagrams to compare and contrast three online sites. Their purpose is to distinguish between true and false internet sources. 

Take Preventative Steps Against Cyberbullying

The best way to prevent cyberbullying is to hold open discussions on the topic. In studies done by the Cyberbullying Research Center, posting mean or hurtful comments and spreading rumors online was the most common complaint in their random survey of 4,400 students ages 10 to 18. In order to best address this problem, educators could pull from several online lesson plans. Bullying and Cyberbullying for a K-5 Curriculum and  Building A Foundation For Safe and Kind Online Communication are just two examples. Both lesson plans address a lack of knowledge about bullying and cyberbullying, commonly accepted myths about online communication, and secrecy and shame surrounding peer abuse.

Also, websites like offer face-to-face activities for educators to use in their classroom. These online programs are administered through the Into the Cloud series and follow theme-related content addressing cyberbullying. Educators could advise their students to create collages of what appropriate online behavior looks like. Or, teachers may put students in groups to discuss what good manners in real life and online may look like.

Use Technology to Protect Students Online

Though technology presents dangers, it’s also a way to prevent dangers. If students know that screen monitoring software is installed on school computers, they’ll learn to be more cautious about their online behavior. In other words, they’ll think about what they’re thinking and doing. This teaches metacognition, an important skill for elementary school students to develop. However, all learners make mistakes. Screen monitoring software such as LearnSafe works hand-in-hand with content filters to protect students from harm. LearnSafe’s customizable library detects threats of violence and instances of predatory grooming. It can even detect students who may need help with anxiety and depression, an increasingly prevalent problem in elementary-school-age children.

Text by Makayla Smith


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