- Learn everything you can about the Internet. Find out what training courses and teacher support is offered by your school or board of education.
- Discover what your students like to do on the Net and evaluate the sites your students visit as a class exercise - an anonymous survey form such as our Student Net Usage Survey is a great way to do this.
- Bookmark safe sites and child friendly surf engines students can use to access information on the Net and create a recommended list of resources for specific class and homework assignments.
Teach your students to:
- Understand that commercial sites, though fun, exist to make money
- Recognize how, and when, they are being sold to
- Avoid clicking on banner ads
- Understand the importance of protecting personal information online
Learn the difference between commercial and non-commercial kids' sites
- Branded commercial sites are easy to spot. They are associated with a specific company or brand and feature products and characters produced and trademarked by the company.
- Non-branded commercial sites are not as obvious. They do not appear to be affiliated with a specific company or brand. They may feature the products of a number of different companies or no product at all. Their chief purpose is to gather personal information from kids, or to research their tastes and preferences.
Read online privacy policies carefully
Many Web sites disclose children's personal information online or sell this information to third parties. It's important that we all learn to "read the fine print" of sites' privacy policies. Remember:
- Any site that is mindful of children's privacy will state quite clearly that it does not disclose information to third parties.
Look for responsible kids sites
- Lists its partners
- Clearly identifies advertisements
- Indicates to parents that information is being collected
- States what information is being collected or tracked and how it will be used
- Tells parents how they can edit or delete any information collected about their children
- Ensures that actual or verifiable parental consent is obtained prior to the child releasing his or her personal information. (A statement like "Hey kids, be sure to get your parents' permission before you give out information online" does not suffice.)
If personal information is to be collected, a responsible kids' site should insist on one of the following:
- Written consent through mail, email or fax
- Verbal consent through a 1-800 number
- Verification through identification such as a unique password
A responsible kids' site that hosts interactive environments should:
- Ensure that parents are aware of the unprotected, public nature of chat rooms, newsgroups and email activities and take steps to safeguard the children who participate in them
- Provide monitored chat environments
Sites like tvo kids, NFBKids, OWLkids Online, the Royal Ontario Museum, PBS Kids and the Ontario Science Centre (see right sidebar) feature a wide assortment of games and activities in a non-commercial environment.
Finding sites like these isn't difficult. Ask other teachers or librarians for their recommendations, or use a reputable, online directory of recommended kids sites such as Berit's Best Sites for Children.
Consider the role of filtering software
Software that blocks out banner ads can limit online advertising to children, but it won't be able to block out Web sites that exist as ads themselves.
Outgoing filtering software can prevent children from giving out their personal information in surveys or chat rooms. Children's' names, addresses or telephone numbers can be programmed into the software, so that every time they try to send it to someone online, it merely shows up as "XXX."
GetNetWise has the most comprehensive, up-to-date list of available filtering software products available. Descriptions of basic features are included.
Remember: Kids still need to be educated about online commerce and the importance of protecting their personal privacy, even if filtering software is used in your school.
For more information on filtering and blocking software see: Filtering Internet Content at Schools.