Monday, March 30, 2015

Teaching Our Connected Kids

Make no mistake, our kids are connected, more than we would probably like to admit. Each year my fifth grade students use a website on online safety for kids and jigsaw the information in presentations. I like this site because it is easy to split kids into topic specific groups and the information is easy for them to summarize. When the students give their presentations we usually spend about 10 to 15 minutes discussing their experiences with each of the topics. It is amazing how many stories they have to share. This week, I asked groups of fifth graders how many of them talk to other people online through gaming sites or systems or through social media. Easily 90% of the students in each class raised their hands. When I asked how many of them talked to people they didn't know at least 50% of the kids raised their hands. As a teacher and parent that makes my stomach hurt.

*86% of the girls polled said they could chat online without their parents knowledge – 57% could read their parents e-mail, and 54% could have a cyber relationship. 
Law enforcement officials estimate that more than 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment. 
*69% of teens regularly receive online communications from strangers and don’t tell a parent or caretaker.
 - See more at:

I want for our students to be connected learners, but are we providing the guidance to help them make smart choices? I know I don't do enough to cover this content throughout the year, but I also don't know if this subject is being covered in the regular ed classrooms at all. We teach about stranger danger, but not when it comes to talking to someone online. Kids see these encounters as harmless, but as adults we are aware of the dangers. At some point, this needs to become part of our curriculum for raising connected learners.

 * Only 15% of parents are “in the know” about their kids’ social networking habits, and how these behaviors can lead to cyberbullying.
* 65% of 8-14 year olds have been involved in a cyber-bullying incident. 
- See more at:

Cyberbullying is a real problem for our connected students. Some of our students are carrying a burden that they don't feel like they can share with the adults in their lives. It is amazing how many students in fifth grade already have stories about being bullied online either by friends or in online chats. Parents and teachers need to be open about cyberbullying and keep an open dialog with students. Many times students don't want to share embarrassing comments that bullies are spreading because they are embarrassed. Building an open relationship can help, so that students have someone to talk to and are equipped with strategies to deal with online bullies.

*Approximately 89% of sexual solicitations of youth were made in chat rooms or through Instant Messaging. 
*22% of teenage girls say they posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves online.
 - See more at:

The good news is that we have access to many great resources to help our students learn about online safety. I created an online safety Symbaloo webmix that I used with 6th grade students this year. We can make it possible for our students to be connected learners by teaching them to be safe online and then giving them opportunities to share their work. Connected adults need to model how we use the internet and social media in positive ways.

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