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Educating Children About Cyberethics: Three Useful Tips and Resources

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Teaching children cyberethics is something we must do to protect them. For educators and parents, using cyberethics principles could be a great way to ensure children know how to avoid the numerous threats lurking around the digital space.

If you’re here to get some tips to teach the youth cyberethics, you’re in the right place. In this article, you’ll find three useful tips (plus helpful resources!).

1. Address Common Myths about Cyber Threats

Goal: Help children understand the real risks and scope of cyber threats, so they know where else ethical problems might occur.

An excellent way to approach cyberethics education is to address misconceptions children might have about the topic. This will help you to assess their knowledge of cyber threats and ensure that they are aware of potential dangers.

Start by providing a brief intro to the topic and asking children what they know (visit the Online Security Hub for help). It’s possible that other adults or peers have told them some things about cyber threats, so ask them to share their knowledge. This way, you can make a smooth transition to the myths about cyber threats.

Address any myths or misconceptions they might have and explain the truth as clearly as possible. For example, one common myth children believe is that having an antivirus app installed on a computer protects one from all cyber threats. The reality is very different, so you need to address that.

Ultimately, knowing about existing threats will help children understand how vulnerable they may be and how important it is to learn about cyberethics.

Helpful resources:

2. Explain That Words Can Hurt

Goal: Teach kids empathy and how to avoid unacceptable online behaviors.

Sometimes even a text message can be extremely hurtful and lead to unexpected consequences. That’s why it's important to teach children that writing online messages, comments, replies, and other texts without thinking first is a major part of ethical behavior.

Here’s how you can approach this in a lesson:

Step 1: Explain why online written communication is a major area of ethical risk

Often, it can be easy to forget that everything we write online can potentially be hurtful to others. That’s why it’s important to remember that social media messages, comments, and other online messages shouldn’t have any offensive language or contain something others don’t want you to share.

Step 2: Teach children to respect other people’s feelings

Since we don’t see or hear others when we communicate online, it’s hard to interpret their feelings. The best way to avoid hurting people is to never write anything that’s mean, jealous, or targeting someone.

Step 3: Explain what to do in case of coming across unacceptable online behavior

Advise children on steps they can take when they encounter something unethical online. For example, if they see friends getting into an argument online, recommend that they don't escalate an already tense situation (suggest they don't take sides). Explain the consequences of getting involved in hurtful online conversations (online words and comments are permanent) and of responding to messages from unknown senders.

Often, the best course of action is to ignore the behavior entirely. However, in some instances, children will want to and should take action. For example, if someone a child knows is responsible for bullying others, you can recommend that they dialogue with that child via private messages and ask them to stop.

Of course, the best thing for a child to do is always to go to a trusted adult for help.

Step 4: Suggest ways to defend against bullying

In many cases, children don’t let their parents, teachers, or peers know that they’re getting bullied online. That’s why you need to help children know how to protect themselves online. They can start by knowing their school’s policies for reporting bullying. They should also know that they can report the bad behavior to the platform or social media network where it occurs. Also, let them know that you will support them regardless of the situation, so they feel more comfortable sharing any details with you.

Helpful resources:

3. Teach How to Become a Responsible Digital Citizen

Goal: Help children to understand "copyright" and how to follow ethical content use rules.

Digital citizenship includes the ability to use digital resources in a responsible way. In simple words, this means avoiding using resources illegally and always giving credit to an author/owner/creator when it’s due.

This concept is something most adults understand—especially those working in organizations like term paper services, colleges, and writing communities—but children can be confused about what they can and can’t use online. So, it’s easy for them to make bad decisions when browsing the internet. For example, they might illegally use music, videos, and games, etc. without checking to see if they’re protected by copyright.

That’s why we must help children make the right decisions:

  • Explain what copyright is. Children need to understand the basics of copyright and why it’s important for everyone to respect this important law.