Cyber Safety in Middle School

I have been working with the 5th and 6th grade students this past year on ways to keep themselves safe while online and how to be a good cyber citizen. I talk about managing their digital legacy as many students have had their pictures taken by classmates with out permission or even videos. Where could they end up and how could they be mashed up (edited and combined with music to “enrich” the original) to become a mean artifact in their digital legacy? What happens in ten years if that file is still searchable?

Many students were nervous about sharing what they actually are doing online as they figured I would punish them or possibly tell their parents. I gave them assurances that for the purpose of these lessons, honesty is the best policy as we are discussing how to protect yourself from strangers along with the larger issue of Cyberbullying. I like how WiredSafety defines it in this video. What is interesting as we discussed cyberbullying was that not many students wanted to admit to being mean, saying hurtful things, isolating students, forwarding messages about other students or other ways that the practice of bullying has moved online.

Since I am teaching this course within our DAILE Moodle, I am able to engage them with videos that really have some shock value. The video Talent Show is a great one to start with as it sets the “stage” nicely for discussing having the courage to say something to a person’s face or by telling the person who is saying the mean things to stop. Of course walking away works onland while hitting delete works well online. The conversation leads to examples of how some students have hurt themselves and the importance of asking for help from caring adults. I feel less like a computer teacher and more like a counselor as I have these discussions. Perhaps I am the cybercounselor for my students. As a school we must help our students and their parents address Cyber Safety and Cyberbullying at a younger age and with continued discussions and a low tolerance for utilizing technology to bully our students.

Parry Aftab, Executive Director of Wired Safety says:

Everyone is panicking about sexual predators online, … that’s why parents are freaking. But what they really need to freak about and pay a lot more attention about is cyberstalking, harassment and cyberbullying …

I talk to 10,000 teens and pre-teens a month in person, 10,000. We have polled 50,000 of these kids and found that between 85 and now 100 percent … of the kids told me that they had been cyberbullied at least once.

A wonderful resource for parents to learn more about is the PBS Frontline show on Growing Up Online. I highly recommend it to all parents to watch with their children.

As a school, we are going to have parent training next year done by teachers are our school in order to have long term help and strategies for our community of learners. Even though the text message may have happened off campus, it affects our learning community.

I have written more on this at the Durham Academy web site and look forward to more conversations as:

I am reminded of the song by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Teach Your Children
(Crosby, Stills and Nash)

You, who are on the road,
Must have a code that you can live by.
And so, become yourself,
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, ….