Chapter 7: Protect Yourself

“There’s simply no substitute for experience in terms of safety.”      – pilot, Chesley Sullenberger


Protect yourself immediately evokes images of creepy men in trench coats or Chris Hanson’s Dateline segment “To Catch a Predator”. While the idea of protecting yourself clearly involves preventing stranger danger, it is far more complex. Students need to learn that their personal information is a commodity and at a minimum our students should at least understand their rights about protecting their information. Protecting ourselves also involves creating a balanced approach to screen time.

This chapter will discuss how our students can begin to create habits that will protect them and their information in a digital age  which is how we help protect them until they can the experience necessary to self-sufficient.

Uncommon Sense

Coaching our students toward behaviors that create safe habits that will protect them include reminding them to log out when done using any online service, create strong passwords, protecting their personal information, abiding about terms of service for online tools, and avoiding interacting with strangers online. It is important that we help our students find and use that are age appropriate and developmentally inline with them. Most online services – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. – require users to be at least 13 years old. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA is federal law that sets strict rules for collection of any child’s personal information by any agency or online organization. By helping students develop safe habits now, we enable them to be strong digital citizens.

Often parents and teachers are concerned that their technical knowledge and skills are insufficient to engage students in conversation about their digital behavior. The reality is that our life experiences and common sense are the essential, missing ingredient. For example, if a student receives an email offering a free gaming system, their response is typically why not sign up for it. Our experience as adults tells us that any offer “too good to be true” is probably a scam. We understand that the sender of the email will benefit in some way from the collection of information when the student signs up for their free gift. Spend time sharing your experiences with your students. Tell them about the fraudulent emails you have received and how you knew they were hoaxes. Encourage them to ask you about situations where something doesn’t feel right or seems “too good”.Digital_Citizenship_Resource_Guide

Teachers and parents need to help students protect themselves by ensuring that students know who they can talk to when they experience uncomfortable or inappropriate situations online. It could that a peer is bullying or harassing them. It could an interaction with someone that made them uncomfortable or felt “wrong” or it could something as simple as a chain letter that suggests bad things will happen if they fail to forward it. Whatever the cause of the discomfort, it is our role as adults to confirm that our students have an adult they feel comfortable talking to in these situations. The easiest way to know is to ask them, “Who would you talk if…?”.

Have you reviewed our harassment policies with your students? Students need to know that bullying online or off will never be tolerated.

Finally, protecting our students does not mean protecting their privacy. Parents need to be feel comfortable having access to their students’ passwords especially passwords of students under 15 years old. There are ways to manage this depending on the students’ age and maturity. First, a family can keep a password note or password file. It should be kept in a safe and discreet location. It should contain all passwords for all accounts that a students uses. Parents have the right to look at any account at any time to both spot check use of the activity or actively search for signs of trouble. Second, as students get older and demonstrate their ability to proper use and manage their accounts, families may decide to have a student write down their passwords, place the passwords in an envelope, and sign the back of the envelope. Parents and students agree to the conditions that would allow a parent to open the envelope and use the students passwords. Some parents insist that they “friend” them or interact with them in the online tools. This is acceptable option, but can give a limited view of the students online behavior.


Take Action

Protecting You & Your Stuff
How much do you and your students know about the tools you use?

  1. A phishing scam uses which tool to cause you give up our personal information?
    1. email
    2. Facebook
    3. Twitter
    4. Snapchat
  2. True or False. You can block users on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
  3. The default setting on Instagram is that all of your photos are…
    1. private.
    2. shared only with friends.
    3. public.
    4. shared only with followers.
  4. True or False. Digital images have tags or metadata that can tell anyone where it was taken.
  5. Snapchat privacy settings let you control…
    1. who sees your snaps.
    2. who sees your stories.
    3. who can send you snaps.
    4. all of the above.
  6. True or False. Everything you do leaves a bread crumb or trail online.
  7. True or False. Many free websites are not truly really because they collect your information and use or sell it.

For more information about protecting yourself and your students from internet hoaxes as well general safety tips, check out Common Sense Media’s Digital Bytes.


How do you take action? Share your ideas here. 

Lesson plans, resources, & more

NPR Cyberbullying Resources

Resources include Why Spying on Our Kids to Solve Cyberbullying Might Not Work and Raising Social Media Teens Means Constant Parental Learning.

New York Times Cyberbullying Collection

A collection of articles and editorials from the New York Times on Cyberbullying.

Connect Safely

Website full of articles and resources related to the safe use of the Internet.

Google Safety Center

Learn about Google safety tools designed to help you manage the security and privacy of your personal data.

Grades K-2: Screen Out the Mean

Students learn that children sometimes can act like bullies when they are online. They explore what cyberbullying means and what they can do when they encounter it.

Grades K-2: Going Places Safely

Students learn that they can go to exciting places online, but they need to follow certain rules to remain safe.

Grades K-2: Staying Safe Online

Students understand that they should stay safe online by choosing websites that are good for them to visit, and avoid sites that are not appropriate for them.

Grades K-2: Powerful Passwords

Students explore reasons why people use passwords, learn the benefits of using passwords, and discover strategies for creating and keeping strong, secure passwords.

Grades 3-5: Private and Personal Information

How can you protect yourself from online identity theft? Students think critically about the information they share online.

Grades 3-5: Talking Safely Online

Students learn that the Internet is a great place to develop rewarding relationships. But they also learn not to reveal private information to a person they know only online.

Grades 3-5: You’ve Won a Prize!

Students learn what spam is, the forms it takes, and then identify strategies for dealing with it.

Grades 3-5: Privacy Rules

Students learn that children’s websites must protect their private information. They learn to identify these secure sites by looking for their privacy policies and privacy seals of approval.

Grades 3-5: Strong Passwords

Students learn how to create secure passwords in order to protect their private information and accounts online.

Grades 4-5: A Word About (N)ethics

In the course of the activities in this lesson, students will develop rules of online conduct. These rules can be grouped under a term such as “(N)ethics” or “Golden Rules.” They share the goal of avoiding, dealing with and speaking out against cyberbullying.

Grades 6-8: Safe Online Talk

While acknowledging the benefits of online talk and messaging, students learn how to handle situations or online behavior which may make them feel uncomfortable.

Grades 6-8: Scams and Schemes

Students learn strategies for guarding against identity theft and scams that try to access their private information online.

Grades 6-8: Cyberbullying: Crossing the Line

Students learn to distinguish good-natured teasing from cyberbullying.

Grades 6-8: What is Crossing the Line?

Grapple with the complex problem of cyberbullying using case studies.

Grades 6-8: Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding

Students learn about the difference between being a passive bystander versus a brave upstander in cyberbullying situations.

Grades 9-12: What’s the Big Deal about Internet Privacy?

Students explore the concept of privacy in their everyday lives, and as it relates to using the Internet.

Grades 9-12: Does it Matter Who Has Your Data?

Students consider the ways websites and companies collect data online and utilize it to personalize content for their users, as well as consider companies’ motives in doing so.

Grades 9-12: Risky Online Relationships

Students think critically about developing relationships with people online.

Grades 9-12: Taking Perspectives on Cyberbullying

Students learn about the dynamics of online cruelty and how it affects all of the people involved.

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