Updated: Sep 7
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.
Online Security Hub: a collection of resources on online safety and security.
“What Do Students Think About Cyberbullying?” Interview with Cathy Montag, a fifth-grade teacher.
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.
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.
Remind kids that they can’t just use all the online resources they find. Encourage children to always check to see who owns the rights to an online resource and to see if it is okay for them to use it (and to give credit, where credit is due).
Share a list of websites with copyright-free/copyrighted resources. Come up with a list of websites where your children can use content with and without giving credit (visit Creative Commons!) to help them understand the difference. This list will also serve as their go-to list of websites to get videos, games, images, and other content.
Need some examples? Pics4Learning is a curated image library where the kids can use content for free without giving credit. To show copyrighted resources, feel free to use Kiddle, a kid-friendly image search engine powered by Google Image Search.
Explain the risks of plagiarism. Some say that the real victim of plagiarism isn’t the author whose content was stolen, but the one who has stolen it. An example of this is a student plagiarizing an essay for school; sometimes the student involved in plagiarizing not only fails to learn the knowledge it takes to write original works, but they also risk suffering the price of violating their school’s zero-tolerance plagiarism policies.
Describe the difference between copying and stealing. Many children believe that copying content doesn’t violate copyright, which is a major misunderstanding. Emphasize the fact that copying is one of the most common forms of plagiarism.
It’s really easy for everyone to download, copy, and use resources online, which creates an increased risk of violating copyright laws. Teaching youth to be responsible from an early age is a good way to help them practice using content legally in the future.
Visit the Ethical Use Hub: full of ethical thinking resources
Digital Citizenship Games. Do you agree that gamification is the best way to teach? Check out this collection of games that teach children to respect the property of others.
Time to Act
The right time to start educating children about cyber ethics is: as soon as possible. If they use devices like smartphones to access the internet, they’re already at an increased risk of facing serious cyber threats.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to come up with a plan to help your students or children understand this topic and stay safe online.
Author: Dorian Martin is an education writer and editor. His experience working in college paper writing services and content marketing agencies allows creating content and strategies for blogs of all sizes. Dorian also runs his personal blog, Not Business as Usual, where he shares his knowledge with budding marketers and business owners.