Many parents feel overwhelmed when it comes to teaching their children about online dangers. Thankfully, several organizations have made it their mission to educate young people and their parents about internet safety. Safe Connects‘ online safety program is a successful example.
What is it?
Safe Connects is a program under the umbrella of Net Literacy, a nonprofit dedicated to making sure that everyone has the access and knowledge to use the internet safely. Safe Connects teaches children, teens and their parents to be safe online.
Before the present incarnation of Safe Connects, there were, of course, pre-existing online safety lesson plans and presentations. However, Net Literacy wanted to make them better. In order to do so, they conducted focus groups and listened to what children, teens and parents had to tell them.
What did they find?
Net Literacy discovered that internet safety lessons were most positively received on a student-to-student basis. Older teens wanted the information to be age-appropriate for them. A presentation meant for 12 year olds quickly caused older teens to lose interest. The teens responded well to the “straight talk” method. Net Literacy also found that it’s crucial to include video and audio as a way to accommodate different learning styles. Additionally, they discovered the importance of discussing difficult, sensitive subjects if they’re important to teens.
What are Safe Connects’ core beliefs?
Safe Connects was established with three premises in mind:
- The voice of the youth should be a component.
- Online safety training should show that the internet can be a positive place. It should exclude techno-panic. This includes the idea that the internet should never be used. Safe Connects also offers guidelines for teens to talk about internet safety with other teens. Specifically, they suggest talking about real world consequences for online behavior.
- Online training should be part of school curriculum, after-school program or other youth-oriented organization. Perhaps most importantly, it should be ongoing. Technology changes quickly, so internet safety training should keep up with these changes.
How does Safe Connects work?
There are five components to the program:
- Students create age-appropriate PowerPoints and scripts. Then, Safe Connects provides those presentations to volunteer high school students. They’re trained on how to conduct internet safety classes in a variety of settings. Click here to view or download the materials they use.
- The students create Public Service Announcements, hosted online and aired on local public, education, and government channels. Click here to view them.
- The volunteers have also created television productions. For example, a thirty-minute presentation posted to the Indianapolis Public Schools website taught online safety. It reached 12,000 students in one year.
- Safe Connects helps teens with their “Net Reputation.” This is a blanket term for the types of things colleges and employers see when they Google a prospective student or employee’s name. Safe Connects has 27 free ways that teens (and adults) can enhance their Net Reputation and score that dream school or job. Click here to learn more about Net Reputation.
- Finally, student interns create video shorts. In fact, there are 270 of these videos. Each focuses on one aspect of internet safety.
Does it work?
Net Literacy conducted its own study on the program’s success from 2006 through 2014. After they were given the Safe Connects presentations, students from elementary, middle and high school, along with their parents, were given surveys. What they found was that 91% of the students said they learned new information from the presentations. Also, 95% recommended that their friends receive the same training. As for parents, 89% of them learned new information, and 95% said they wanted their children to receive the training.
Text by Jennie Tippett