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Enlisting Students to Make the Internet Safer

The potential dangers to young people using the Internet become more real every day -- yet, so do the opportunities for enrichment. iSAFE Inc. aims to help students understand and navigate online hazards, and encourages them to educate their peers as well. Included: Information about iSAFEs online safety curriculum.

With youngsters access to the Internet and knowledge of the reams of opportunities it offers, both good and bad, expanding far faster than those of the adults around them, cyber safety for kids is a top concern.

One Internet safety resource for busy educators is i-SAFE, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that provides curriculum for K-12 students and community programs in the U.S. and to members of the European Union. i-SAFE lessons are designed to help young people recognize and avoid dangerous, destructive, and unlawful online behavior as well as learn how to respond appropriately to suspect behavior they encounter while wandering the Web.

Another way i-SAFE hopes to educate students is through peer interaction. Efforts include a global student competition called "Crossing Borders organized for "Safer Internet Day (SID), which is February 6. Students from the U.S. and other countries paired up to create Web presentations on issues related to using the Internet, such as e-privacy, netiquette, or the power of images. Footage from the entries will be available via streaming video from the i-SAFE Web site on February 6.

Education World talked with Teri Schroeder, i-SAFE president and CEO, about her hopes that the contest will lead to more young people collaborating on the issue of Internet safety, and why the need for education in that area continues to grow.

Teri Schroeder
Teri Schroeder

Education World: What prompted i-SAFE to sponsor the student competition?

Teri Schroeder: We wanted to facilitate the experience of students from around the world working together. The Internet is such a powerful tool, and we hear so much about the intrusive side of technology. We dont hear enough about the positive impact of technology and the Internet on students when they work with other young people from other parts of the world.

EW: What do you hope students gain from the experience of working on the contest?

Schroeder: Our goal is that they learn from one another how to have a positive impact and how to work together regardless of demographics or cultural differences. One way students benefit is by learning how technology facilitated such a wonderful experience. These students are also working in a creative environment so it is great to see how they express their ideas and concepts to one another and see how the combined efforts create one great project!

EW: What do you consider the most pressing Internet safety issue facing young people today?

"We wanted to facilitate the experience of students from around the world working together."
Schroeder: The most pressing issue they face is socializing [online] with people they dont know. Its important for students to know how to navigate this electronic medium and communicate safely.

EW: How can teachers integrate Internet safety into their curriculum?

Schroeder: One way teachers can integrate Internet safety into their curriculums is by going through the i-SAFE i-LEARN online training modules. Teachers can view the modules and then have complete electronic access to the curriculum to deploy into their classroom.

Teachers have little time to waste today. They are always trying to ensure that topical issues align to educational standards. For example, if an educator were teaching history and wanted to combine the issue of cyber security into that lesson, he or she might explore some of the issues pertaining to cyber security such as the term "Trojan horses. The class could discuss what the term means in the world of cyber security and the historical events from which the term originated; the use of a deceptively innocent-looking item to stage a hostile take-over.

EW: Often young people use technology more easily and extensively than their teachers and parents. How does that influence Internet safety lessons?

Its important for students to know how to navigate this electronic medium and communicate safely.
Schroeder: This is where we as a foundation are seeing the benefits of peer-to-peer interactions. Having young people be more aware of what technology does and offers is definitely a positive thing. Students can make such an impact on the true meaning of online safety when it comes to online socialization. We see such a digital divide between the concepts parents have of technology and those of their sons and daughters. Students are cyber citizens in todays global economy. They use technology in a lot of different ways than their teachers and parents. Online socialization and collaboration with others is a way of life for students. We see a lot of efforts being made by students to enhance online safety through educating others about what it means to be a savvy online user in todays cyber world.

EW: What is the biggest obstacle to keeping kids safe while using the Internet?

Schroeder: The biggest obstacle is technology itself. Technology today is evolving at a very fast pace. There is always something new that does things faster. Kids love to explore. Technology facilitates that exploration and allows kids to experience anything and everything they want through the click of a mouse. In some instances innocence is taken away from a child because technology facilitated access to a person, place, or thing that in real life the young person was not ready to experience.

This e-interview with Teri Schroeder is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.


Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Published 01/30/2007