There are three important areas that teachers need to consider when using the Internet and teaching children to use the Internet. It is important that teachers know how to protect the computer from viruses and spyware while using the Internet. It is also important that teachers are aware of privacy issues related to the Internet and understand safety and security risks.
Pretty much everybody knows that computers are vulnerable to viruses. It is also well known that viruses are often contained in email attachments, which are then “opened” into the computer. Fortunately, anti-virus technology has been able to keep pace with the virus creators and viruses aren’t as common as they were a couple of years ago.
Schools employ computer technicians who are responsible for maintaining the anti-virus software. They are also responsible for the operating system. Some systems are more secure than others are. Teachers should get to know the techs in their schools. The computer tech can be a powerful ally. They can also describe the particular types of protection available at each school.
The viruses that the computer techs can’t help with are email viruses. These are viruses that are attached to an email and, when opened, mail themselves to other people in the address book. You can prevent these viruses on school computers by setting up a classroom email system and not allowing personal email use at school. This is a solution commonly used in businesses.
If a teacher does have to open email attachments at school, there are some rules that will help keep the computer safe. The first rule is to not open attachments from strangers. The risk is too great. Another rule is to never open an attachment that ends with EXE, COM, or VBS. These are commands that run programs. Teachers should not only practice these rules but also teach these rules.
Another thing that teachers need to know about Internet safety is just how students use the Internet. A lot of teachers were probably finished with school before the Internet explosion. It is hard to imagine how important the Internet is to students and how enmeshed it is in their personal lives. Students display photos of themselves on the Internet on sites like My Space. They make friends, sometimes with strangers, when people respond to their posts. It is crucial that teachers educate students about the potential dangers of sharing personal information with strangers.
Networking can be a dangerous practice for the student; everyday city papers report on sexual predators caught via the Internet. Predators hang out “trolling” for victims and pretend to be the students’ age. They arrange to meet. Teachers can prevent students from using public networking sites when they are in the classroom. They can do this by monitoring use and only allowing specific sites. However, they also need to teach students about Internet safety. Teenage students feel invincible. They don’t believe they will ever be the victims of Internet crime. However, they are often wrong. It is a good idea to have students do a unit on Internet safety while they are learning about computers. They can do the research and see for themselves how easy it is to deceive people on-line. They can learn for themselves how many students, everyday, are preyed upon on the Internet.
When considering Internet safety, it is important to understand how dynamic the Internet is. The threats of today did not exist yesterday, and there will be new threats tomorrow. It might be a good idea to subscribe to an Internet magazine for schools or classrooms. That way students, teachers, and administrators all have the opportunity to stay current.