To make the most of the internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome provides digital safety resources for teachers and families. Access them here>>
Ever since computers and the Internet became a part of our classrooms, we’ve been trying to figure out the best ways to prepare our students for the online world. While at first this was as simple as having them write down their login information, every year it’s grown and become more complex. Internet safety for students is now a topic that all teachers must address, and that can be challenging. Who has time to create lessons for every important aspect of digital citizenship in addition to everything else we’re asked to do?
With this in mind, Google created Be Internet Awesome, Google’s Digital Safety and Citizenship Curriculum. This resource breaks down Internet safety for students into five big ideas and then provides comprehensive lessons, vocabulary, and even games to reinforce each one. Complete them in one large unit or intersperse them throughout other units during the school year to provide your students with everything they need to be responsible and safe online.
1. Share With Care
Protecting yourself, your information, and your privacy whenever you’re online
Starting with the crucial message that you often can’t take back something you post online, these lessons help students see just how much of ourselves we post online each day. From there, students are tasked with becoming more aware of how hard it is to delete or erase things they say or post online and how things might be funny or appropriate to them, but might not be to their peers, parents, or other individuals. Finally, a lesson helps students become more mindful of what they put online about themselves and about others.
In Lesson 3, “That’s Not What I Meant!” your students will design T-shirts with emojis that represent how they’re feeling. They’ll share their T-shirts with their classmates and guess what each student’s emojis are saying about them. As they discuss any misunderstandings or misinterpretations, they’ll start to understand why it’s so important for all of us to take a minute to consider how what we post might be interpreted by other people.
2. Don’t Fall for Fake
While many students know that not every person they encounter online is who they claim they are, the content they encounter might be fake/unreliable too. It’s important to know how to stay aware of potential dangers online.
This collection of lessons starts with the basics. Your students will review how pop-ups, fake ads, and misleading spam can trick people into giving away important personal information. Then it covers the important topic of being careful about who you talk to in video game chats and other situations where a student might talk to “real” people. Finally, these lessons take a look at the information students find online and provide concrete tips for how they can determine if that information is reliable or not.
In Lesson 2, “Who’s This ‘Talking’ to Me?” your class will practice their anti‑scam skills by acting out—and discussing possible responses to—suspicious online messages, posts, friend requests, apps, pictures, and email. Each scenario represents a very real way a student might be approached by someone, friendly or not, online. This activity is perfect for giving kids a way to think and talk through these situations before they occur.
3. Secure Your Secrets
From the importance of coming up with a strong, unique password (and not sharing it with others!) to finally figuring out what all those privacy settings on your device and social media apps mean, this series of lessons is all about teaching kids to keep their information secure.
These lessons look at areas your students probably don’t spend much time thinking about. How do you create a truly safe password? Why shouldn’t you share your password with others? And what can you say/do to keep your password safe when someone asks you to share it? Finally, your class will take a closer look at all those privacy settings. They’ll learn what they actually mean and which ones are best for them to have on their devices.
In Lesson 1, “But That Wasn’t Me!” students are asked to discuss all the different reasons why students give out their passwords to friends (and strangers!) every day. Next, they’ll come up with likely consequences for what happens when the person they shared their password with decides to use it for the wrong reasons (for example, liking all your crush’s latest posts). Finally, your class will discuss how those outcomes would affect them immediately, but also how the outcome might affect their digital footprint long-term. It’s a great lesson for getting kids to take a moment to reflect on why they really shouldn’t be sharing their passwords with anyone aside from a teacher or parent.
4. It’s Cool To Be Kind
Perfect for times when your students need some practice with empathy and kindness, these lessons really get to the heart of why kindness matters.
These lessons begin with information that is so important for anyone who spends time online. Students will discover why emotions are harder to discern online than in person and how that can affect communication. Then, they’ll practice showing empathy and showing support to friends who might need it. Finally, they’ll take a look at the way mean-spirited, sarcastic, or harmful comments spread on social media and what they can do to stop it.
In Lesson 1.2, “Practicing Empathy,” students will look at a series of cartoon images of different online activities. Students will guess how the kid in each image is feeling based on the situation and why. As they discuss their responses with their classmates, it’s likely that there will be disagreements, but that’s OK. The point of the activity is to show how difficult it can be to accurately read someone’s emotions online, but that if you’re trying to be kind and empathetic, you’re likely to respond in a way that makes that person feel heard, even if you don’t get it just right.
5. When in Doubt, Talk It Out
It’s a sad reality that many of our students are going to encounter content online that makes them feel uncomfortable. These lessons focus on teaching students what to do when that occurs.
One big theme in this unit is helping kids understand they’re not on their own when they see content online that makes them feel uncomfortable. They don’t have to feel embarrassed or alone if they’ve stumbled onto something they wish they hadn’t seen. The “brave” part of these lessons, however, stresses to students the importance of understanding when this content requires them to get help and/or talk things out with a trusted adult. Situations where they or others might be hurt or in danger are presented in a safe, responsible way. Students are given tools to help them be brave and seek adult guidance.
“Musical Reporting” is a great activity that uses music as a wait-time method. Students are given common but challenging online situations they’ll likely experience. For example, encountering comedy that others find funny but you find offensive. Or when your friends think a violent video or game is great but it makes you uncomfortable. Then, you play music to give your students a chance to think things through. As different solutions are presented, the class can discuss what works about that solution and what might not work. At the end, students will have a lot of practice standing up for themselves when faced with uncomfortable situations online, as well as practice for when it’s time to get an adult’s help.
Each unit also corresponds to a level in the Internet safety game Interland, perfect for reinforcing the ideas at home or during free time. This free, online game covers tons of digital safety content. Henry, 8, says, “I liked stopping bullies and jumping on things. I learned that you have to report bullies.”
Check out all the Be Internet Awesome lessons and start planning your unit on Internet safety for students today.