3 Tips ~ How to Teach Internet Safety to Elementary Students

Why Should We Teach Internet Safety to Elementary Students?

The answer may seem obvious but a lot has changed since we were in elementary school. As adults nobody ever taught us about Internet safety. We pretty much learned as we went along and technologies evolved. However, in today’s’ landscape our children are being forced onto the Internet at an early age. Until recently most elementary kids were taught in classrooms and did not have to rely on the Internet as a way to obtain an education.

It’s true that in most states some type of online learning resource was previously available for elementary students, but most kids were taught in a classroom environment. In light of the current increase in distance learning, we must teach Internet safety to elementary students.

For the time being, our children, in most cases, do not have the choice of classroom learning. And, later in life, they may prefer an online learning environment as opposed to in-classroom learning. Those are probably their college years but for now, it is important to teach Internet safety to elementary students so they develop good habits for the future.

Most younger kids do not get Internet-enabled phones until they are in their teens. Younger students have not been exposed to the dangers of world-wide-web use like teenagers have. Because of the increased need for distance learning these younger kids are being forced onto the Internet. Because of the learning curve at different ages, it is difficult to teach Internet safety to elementary students.

This article covers how important it is to teach Internet safety to elementary students. Teachers and parents have not been faced with this challenge at this scale ever before. This article offers some tips to assist both teachers and parents with the task of addressing Internet safety both in the classroom and at home. It covers strategies for different grade-levels and offers resources that can be used to teach Internet safety to elementary students.

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3 Tips to Teach Internet Safety to Elementary Students

  • Relate real-world scenarios to online situations — For instance, use what they already know about strangers, and the possible dangers, while in public and relate it to a scenario on the Internet. In public situations where if something doesn’t seem right you teach your child to seek out an adult they trust. Relate that to a scenario they could run across on the Internet and stress that they should also come to you for that.
  • Use appropriate teaching strategies based on the grade level of the child — A child in first grade requires a different approach than a child in the sixth grade. Don’t overwhelm a younger child, and ask questions of older children to gauge their current level of understanding. Never assume what a student knows and does not know. The goal is to build critical thinking skills that can be applied to situations as they arise later on.
  • Have confidence in your ability to teach your kids how to be safe online — You know how to guide your children in the real world because you have experience there. You also have at least some experience online too. Always educate yourself about any issues you need to discuss with your student. You don’t have to be an expert to teach Internet safety to elementary students, you just need to know your child, and be familiar with the dangers kids face on the Internet. Don’t feel daunted, just help your children to act responsibly online, and to use technology to their advantage.

Internet Safety Lessons For Elementary Students

Distance learning has turned parents, housekeepers, and babysitters into teachers. That’s the reality of our current situation. I have been tutoring kids for many years. I have also completed both a Bachelors and Masters degrees online. So for me the burden of our new environment, learning and teaching at home, comes naturally. But it’s not like that for everyone, especially when comes to teaching Internet safety to our children, now our students.

As stay at home teachers, we must rely on available resources. One of the best resources I know of is CommonSense.org. They have a large amount of content that is available for us, like “23 Great Lesson Plans for Internet Safety.” It offers many videos and lesson plans that we can use to teach Internet safety to our kids, the students in our house. The videos and lesson plans are broke down into sections that cover grades K-12.

This resource is for teachers and parents to create their account and then use the resources to teach Internet safety to elementary students, and up to high school. It is not intended as an online learning platform for students themselves, but to enable adults to teach the children. Every learning environment is different for each child and it’s the parents who can facilitate the best learning strategies in each case.

Make it Fun and Interesting

It’s all about attention span. Elementary students are kids, and kids like to have fun. While teaching an elementary student about online safety incorporate some stories to keep their interest. Teaching by telling a story is a great way to keep a student’s interest. It may be about something that happened to you on the Internet or someone you know.

Don’t forget about teaching new technologies to gain their interest. Young students have a tendency to be very inquisitive so learning new technologies is a great way to keep them involved in the learning process. For example, if your kid is using an application like Zoom for online meetings and class sessions you can teach them how to use it and at the same time stress the importance of using it in a safe and responsible manner.

Most technologies have something about that can be fun. Zoom is no exception. Older students, in fifth or sixth grade, for example, may be interested in the advanced features of applications like Zoom. Zoom has a feature that allows for virtual backgrounds.

The student will be able to pick any background image or video as a background while participating in a Zoom meeting. It’s fun and will keep a young student engaged in the learning process. For more information about the Zoom Virtual Backgrounds feature you can refer to this article where I explain it. It takes more than one strategy to teach Internet safety to elementary students.

Posters to Display in Your Home: 10 Tips for Students

There is a primary school teacher in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, Kathleen Morris, who has created some wonderful resources for us to use to teach our kids Internet safety. She has created a set of 11 posters that can be placed in your child’s’ learning environment. Thank you, Kathleen Morris. They cover 10 important tips that every elementary student needs to know to stay safe on the Internet while learning and socializing.

These great posters can be downloaded in a PDF format here.


Read more: Keep Our Children Safe While Online

Read more: What is a Complex and Unique Password?


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3 More Ways to Keep Your Children Safe Online

1. Learn and Understand the Dangers and Threats Yourself.

You ask, “how do we Keep Our Children Safe While Online?” The answer is not straight forward. It may require some research on your part and may consume a fair amount of your time. You can’t teach your children how to stay safe online if you don’t fully know and understand the dangers and threats yourself. When you know the facts yourself then you can teach Internet safety to elementary students. Here is a starter list of areas to concentrate on:

  • General Understanding of Internet Threats
  • Common Types of Phishing Attacks
  • Stay Safe While Gaming Online
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

There are many resources that provide information on these topics. This site offers lots of detailed information that makes “Talking to Your Child About Internet Safety” easier and more effective. The more you know the better you can explain Internet safety to a child.

Always keep the lines of communication open with your children. If you are able to freely and openly talk to your children about Internet safety and the associated risks the more effective your guidance will be. If there is an older child that is already Internet savvy ask them to help police the habits of their younger siblings.

Without the right knowledge talking to your children about things like online predators and other risks won’t be effective. And, always stress the point that online reputation is important and the Internet is not private. You want to provide your children with the information that will keep them safe when they are outside of your house, and outside of your control.

2. Provide a Common Area Where Your Children Access the Internet

Maintain an environment where you are in the same room as your children when they are accessing the Internet, especially with the younger kids. You can set Wi-Fi passwords so they need to be entered each time by you. An even better approach is to set up your router with a separate account for your children. Most modern routers allow this, and in addition, have options for parental controls. For more information on setting up a secure home network read this article.

Set boundaries and rules regarding the time of Internet use, and time allowed each day. Be sure to set specific time slots for online studies. These things can keep our children safe while online.

3. Know Who Your Children Interact With Online

There are so many persons online that masquerade and present themselves as someone they are not. As adults, we realize that. Our children may still trust what they see and read on the Internet. Which is good to a point. Children need to exhibit a certain amount of trust to experience a normal childhood. They will learn as they go, as we did.

Make sure you become friends and contacts within your child’s social media circles. It’s important to keep track of new friends. Explain the reason for that to your child.

Both adults and children use social media as a way of keeping in touch with our friends and keep track of what is going on in our circle. After all, nobody wants to be left out. To help keep our children safe while online we need to know who they are communicating with online.

When our children go to a neighbors house we make sure we know who those neighbors are and where their house is. It needs to be a similar scenario with online social behaviors. It’s all about keeping our kids safe, doesn’t matter whether it’s online, or in the real physical world.


Featured photo by: Julia M Cameron

Other Images:  Olia Danilevich

Resources: Kathleen Morris

Updated on November 24, 2020 by Kirby Allen

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