The internet has been around for decades now, and yet, in many ways, we are still learning to integrate it fully into our lives. One area for improvement is in the way we teach our children to use and navigate the internet. Going online is such an everyday activity for adults that we often don’t realise how different it can be from a child’s perspective.
Early childhood learning is strongly experiential in nature, and not every child has the privilege of reliable internet access. Yet as they grow older, all kids will inevitably become acquainted with the internet. They will be sharing devices and using school computers to learn. At some point, teachers will need to get involved and help to impart some of the fundamental principles of digital citizenship. Here are some vital lessons you can share with students about the proper use of the internet.
The use of filter and restriction
Some kids will enter the classroom perfectly comfortable with a device in their hands. Others won’t have the same level of familiarity. This reflects differences in background and upbringing. Some parents don’t like the idea of giving their children access to devices and the internet; others are okay with that. In between are those who implement restrictions, such as parental controls or firewalls, to ensure that internet access within the home is limited to safe content for children.
There’s no question that initially, kids will benefit from having restricted access to the internet. They aren’t ready for all the potential information and interactions that open up when you go online. But at some point, children will have to make that transition. Every child will mature differently; what matters is that they all learn the ability to filter out and control the influence of technology in their lives.
Instead of relying on brute force techniques which are commonly implemented at home, in schools or at workplaces throughout the country, kids need to be taught how to navigate the internet responsibly. Together with that, the practice of limiting device use can be initiated in the classroom setting. Implement technology breaks, so that you can still incorporate devices as a learning aid while teaching students that they should be able to control how often (and for how long) they are used.
Internet safety practices
Removing the typical brute force filters from the internet can be dangerous without proper guidance. Over the years, older generations have developed their common sense on how to use the internet safely. Even so, some adults will still fall victim to scams or click on links that install malware. On top of that, even legitimate sites might be hosting content that’s inappropriate for certain age levels.
Social media adds another layer of risk to using the internet in the modern age. While many people today view it as an integral part of their lives, social media carries negatives as well as positives. Grown-ups can feel status pressure; kids are even more vulnerable to issues around low self-esteem which can escalate into cyber-bullying.
As a teacher, you may not have full control over the level of restrictions that students experience when accessing the internet at home or using school facilities. However, you can still teach them basic internet safety practices, such as how to recognize suspicious sites and avoid clicking on links that prompt them to install unknown apps.
Proper information literacy
Even young kids can quickly learn how to unlock devices and open apps. However, that doesn’t mean they have the skills to use them properly. Children can teach themselves to use technology to an amazing extent, particularly when it comes to games and other forms of entertainment. Using the internet properly as an information resource, however, requires deliberate learning.
As a teacher, you can give kids their first lessons in information literacy. Searching for anything online is a no-brainer, but do your students know how to refine their searches and use search operators? Likewise, search engines can return thousands if not millions of results; how can they parse those results for relevance? Finally, given the abundance of misinformation online, you can take the critical step of teaching children how to analyze their sources for accuracy, authenticity, and overall reliability.
By taking action along these lines, you can allow technology to enhance the student learning experience while managing its use. This will help students to make the gradual transition towards eventually having full access to the internet while also becoming responsible digital citizens