Introduction 

Is the boogeyman lurking on the internet? As students grow up in a world filled with technology like social media, instant messaging, online payments, video chat, and more, it's important to teach them how to navigate the internet safely. Having the world wide web available to us has given us unlimited information at our fingertips. However, the danger lies in predators looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims intending to physically, emotionally, and financially harm people. It can be easy for these predators to lure kids with false promises, lucrative offers, and misinformation because they may not have encountered "bad people" yet. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher trying to guide your students into safer internet usage, this guide to internet safety could help you navigate the important topic.

What Is Cyber Crime?

Cybercrime is an act of illegal activity that takes place primarily online, but can move offline. These criminals usually target computer networks or other devices. Common forms of cybercrime may include phishing by using fake email messages, hacking, identity theft, distributing child pornography, spreading hate, cyberstalking, harassment, and inciting terrorism, and making sexual advances to minors.

Why Is Internet Safety Important? 

Simply put, teaching internet safety for kids can prevent long-term physical, emotional, and financial damages. Most students can suffer decades of psychological trauma from cyberbullying. By understanding the different online dangers, they can recognize them and not fall victim to them. For example, 89 percent of sexual solicitations of youth were made through instant messaging or chat rooms. 

Below are example scenarios that might happen regarding students as victims of internet crime. 

  • The internet opens up avenues for sexual predators to hunt for innocent students, who could then become vulnerable victims. 

  • Unintentional mistakes, like clicking on a fishy advertisement or keying a wrong address, can lead to highly inappropriate websites for children. 

  • For students who use their parents' computers or devices, this can lead to a breach of financial information, social security, and other confidential data. 

  • Exposure to cyberbullying can result in a detrimental psychological effect on a child. Students who experience cyberbullying are 1.6 times more likely to commit suicide than any other form of cause for severe depression. According to a survey by Comparitech in which 1,011 parents were surveyed, about 52% of all bullying comes from digital. Of that number, 19.2% were cyberbullied through social media, 11% through text messages, 7.9% through video games, 6.8% on the internet (not including social media), 3.8% through phone calls, and 3.3% through emails. 

  • Unauthorized hackers can break into your computer digitally and steal personal information for criminal purposes. 

Internet Safety Tips for Students 

Understand internet safety: Make sure as a teacher, you equip yourself with the requisite knowledge needed about the dangers online. Get a good understanding of all the common tactics of internet hackers and cyberbullies to prey on innocent students. This can be looking out for fake profiles, strange unsolicited emails, and false promises. 

Have the conversations early: If your students are still young and under the age of 10, you want to begin the conversation as soon as possible. Your students will likely begin using a computer or tablet soon. It takes time to get your students to understand all potential threats and to practice good internet safety habits. 

Be honest and open: Keep the lines of communication open for internet safety. Speak to your students frequently about what they enjoy doing online. Listen in a non-judgmental and open-minded way. Also, be supportive when they express their concerns. If your students have done something online that is inappropriate, discuss it with them, and tell them why it's inappropriate. Make sure to provide an alternative for them to navigate safely online. For example, if they're looking for games to play online, but keep stumbling on phishing emails or ads, recommend safe play sites. We recommend educational games that can teach them something while playing—something that’s both educational and entertaining. 

Set ground rules: When establishing ground rules, it's best to involve your students in them. Having a two-way street helps to build trust and encourages them to follow the rules, since they have taken part in making the rules. If they take ownership of these rules, they'll likely practice internet safety habits. The older your students are, the more flexibility you may give them. For example, younger students may not need to use the internet, but older students may need them for research papers. It's best to automatically block all social media sites and other forbidden sites on all school devices to ensure it can't be accessed.

Use analogies: For younger students, concepts like computer viruses, cybersecurity, and password sharing can sound overly complex and abstract. It's better to use analogies to explain some of these concepts better. For example, passwords can be explained as keys to your digital house. Having a simple password or only one password makes it easy to steal. However, a difficult password that is hard to remember is like losing your keys all the time. For social apps or any kind of messaging, you can explain it as "never talk to strangers...only people you know and trust. Do not open emails from strangers.” Although there are privacy settings, students should understand that once they've posted online, it's there forever. Even if they delete their social media post, it can still be traced and potentially used against them later when they are adults or when they’re applying to college. Keep your analogies easy to understand to convey the point that you are trying to make. 

Be a trusted adult for them: Often, once cyberbullying is found, it's already too late. Internet safety should be a long-term conversation, not just a one-time chat. It's important to continue to share practical advice in a fun and interesting way for students to consume so that they take your advice seriously. Try to check in on your students, and develop a relationship in which they can always come to you if they feel uncomfortable or something is upsetting them. Promise that there is a no-judgment or no-freakout reaction to anything that they could potentially bring up. Your student may be embarrassed to have spent $50 on loot boxes or that they tried to meet a fake friend online, but always be gentle and kind with your reaction. Judging will only exacerbate the issue. As a teacher, you can create an anonymous box for students to express their issues. Then you can privately speak to those particular students. 

Utilize Available Resources: There are plenty of available resources online to learn more about internet safety and seek help if your student is in danger. If your student is in danger, you should contact the local police or CyberTipline. To learn more about cyberbullying for students, here are a few resources to check out: 

Use sites with internet safety games, such as NetSmartzKids, OnGuardOnline.gov, and YouAreHere, to better interact and engage your students about Internet safety. There are also kid-friendly search engines, like KidRex and Kidtopia

Conclusion 

Technological advancements have increased virtual communication. It's best to teach your students early about the potential dangers and limit their internet usage, but also create a bubble of websites and apps that they are allowed to use. Also, encourage their parents to continue the conversation at home and continue to provide other internet safety tips by using the available resources online. By practicing internet safety habits, you are minimizing the risk of cyberbullying and other cybercrime. Educate your students on internet safety and practice tips to avoid internet scams, online predators, and cyberbullies.