Penstripe’s guide to teaching online safety

Keeping students safe is one of your main priorities as a teacher, and the internet has made this task a lot more difficult, as you now have to protect them in the digital world as well as the physical. As an educator, you cannot just introduce the internet to your pupils without teaching them how to be safe while exploring, this may sound obvious, but it’s not as simple as merely telling them not to talk to strangers or Google inappropriate topics.

The majority of today’s children not only have access to the internet, they are also growing up in a generation that has not known life without it. Because of this, students today tend to be very knowledgeable when it comes to technology – but they aren’t always clued up on how to be safe. In Penstripe’s guide to teaching online safety, we will show you how best to teach your pupils about internet safety, so they can get the most out of this worldwide tool, and you’ll know how to plan your next lesson in your teacher planner.


Teacher planners designed to help with productivity, organisation and wellbeing for your team

What exactly is ‘Online Safety’?

Online safety is not…

  • Heavy online restrictions
  • Overbearing internet monitoring
  • Limited internet usage
  • Blocking websites
  • The banning of social sites like Facebook

Often educators and parents use these tactics to keep children ‘safe’. When in reality you are teaching them to be sneaky and use things like VPNs, which allows them to override these restrictions by simply downloading an app. This is not safety.

Online safety is…

Knowledge – Blocking websites does not do any good for the child in the long run, but teaching them how to be safe on the internet enables them to practice these good habits for years to come. After all, the internet is not all negative, and when used correctly it is one of the greatest tools for enhancing a pupils learning.

Provide Resources

Did you know that the average attention span of a teenager is 8 seconds? That is 1 second less than a goldfish, so it is very unlikely your class would listen to an hour long lecture on the dangers of the internet. However, that does not mean you can’t get them to listen, you just have to change your approach. Replace the lectures with interesting YouTube videos, ones that are not patronising but still outline the important stuff – like cyberbullying laws. By encouraging students to use their initiative you can teach them while avoiding becoming the ‘preacher’.

The Importance of Scenarios

It’s all well and good outlining the laws and protocols of scrolling Instagram and Google, but do they understand how this affects them in certain scenarios? Pupils are at a vulnerable age where they are impressionable and are forming their decisions on life. Create fictitious scenarios and ask the pupils how they would deal with them, an example could be something like this:

“ Sarah is a 15 year-girl with a Facebook account. She tries to keep her account as private as possible, as instructed by her mum but receives a friend request from a guy called ‘Ben’ who seems to be good looking and her age. He has no mutual friends and very few pictures. He asks to meet up with her.”

After the students read this scenario ask them questions such as: “What are the issues with this situation” and “What would you do if you were Sarah?”. The goal is to allow the students to come up with their own conclusion (with your guidance) of the extreme dangers like these. This approach enables children to think of it as a relatable scenario and how it can directly affect them. Reiterate the dangers and encourage students to remove themselves from any situation they feel uncomfortable with and that they can always speak to you.

Practice What You Preach

One of your priorities as an educator is to maintain a flawless online presence. Allow your students to examine your social profiles and see if they can find any flaws/dangers in them. By practising what you preach, you can show your pupils that internet safety is important and that adults do the same.

If you would like your pupils to have a daily reminder of how to be safe on the internet, why not include a bespoke page in their student planner – so they can never forget the importance of being safe.

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