The issues of internet safety is going to be on the front burner in technology education in Illinois as legislation has been passed to make teaching the concept mandatory as of next school year. I’ve pulled together several articles and resources here. I fear that programs that schools design will be ineffective because kids will see right through the grown-up’s approach to warning children about social networking. The typical approach is to instill fear about sexual predators with little regard to the truth about who engages in sexual abuse of children (most being parents and other people known to the victim). Another typical approach is to stress that the most important part of internet safety is to limit personal information on profiles, with little mention that most harassment occurs by those known to the child in the form of cyberbullying. Some kids see right through all the fear mongering and much of the information presented is dismissed as “lame”. Students who put themselves at risk will not recognize themselves in the presentation of cautionary content, and all others will go with “it won’t happen to me.”
Internet Safety programs need to take technology out of the equation and redirect the message to the parents. Take a look at the description of a program written by Nancy Willard, one of the foremost experts on the subject.