June 25, 2014

Teaching Students to Avoid Danger Online: Internet Safety Instructor Terry Cutler

By Erin Flynn Jay, Contributing Writer | Literacy Resources Terry Cutler on Internet Safety

Terry Cutler has heard a familiar refrain during nine years of teaching Internet safety: Parents can’t keep up with their kids when it comes to technology. The way he sees it, yesterday’s technology did not prepare today’s parents for their children’s ability to access potentially harmful media.

Technology: no longer a passive babysitter

Television was a babysitter, and the interaction between children and TV was passive. “You sit down, watch or change the channel. If a parent was in the kitchen and didn’t like what was on TV, they’d walk into the room and change the channel. The parent was being active,” he said.

Today, with Internet-enabled apps and devices, children are active media consumers with numerous ways to access TV shows, movies and music, as well as engage with peers. Cutler says that parents, in many cases, have fallen behind this technology and are becoming passive. They have no idea how to monitor, safeguard or even understand the Internet’s dangerous places.

An ethical hacker learned how online predators work

Since becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker in 2005, Cutler learned the mindset of how hackers and scammers trick their way into people’s systems. “I started seriously looking into this in 2004 when one of my heroes Laura Chappell demonstrated how she was able to get involved and track down predators who thought she was a 14-year-old girl,” he said. “Since I was already familiar with the technics, it inspired me to help join the cause to make a difference.”

Cutler created The Course On Internet Safety to change the game and maybe even save lives. “So much of our personal and online life is intertwined, which makes it extremely important to protect it,” Cutler said. “Having your personal information taken and used against others to gain their trust and tricking them into thinking it’s you will cause heavy stress and anxiety.”

Terry Cutler’s focus is on protecting families and businesses with in-depth but easy to understand knowledge about nearly every aspect of online security we face today, from proper privacy settings on Facebook to how to avoid clicking on phishing links and compromising your data.

Three online safety tips teachers can offer students

Cutler offers three strategies teachers can give students to stay safe online at the elementary, middle, and high school level:

1. Teach students what online bullying is and how it affects others

Talk about cyberbullying and its consequences for both victims and perpetrators. At age-appropriate levels, explain what harassment, flaming, outing, defamation and impersonation mean.

2. Instruct students to use technology properly and respectfully

Technology can be used to empower our lives and do great things, but there is also a dark side. Set expectations for students’ use of classroom computers and tablets as well as personal devices, including smartphones. Technology should enhance, not disrupt, learning time in the classroom.

3. Apply real-world safety tips to online behavior

Teachers and parents should extend the safety lesson students learn for the real world — don’t talk to strangers, never get into someone’s car you don’t know, tell an adult if something is wrong — to their online lives. Because most adults have become digital immigrants, it is very important to teach students to watch out for themselves online, including:

  • Never share their name, school, age, address or phone number with someone they don’t know
  • Don’t send inappropriate pictures to anyone
  • Never give out passwords. If a password gets out by accident, change it right away
  • Tell an adult if they receive upsetting messages or photos, even if they’re from a friend
  • What they do online could affect a future job. Emphasize that employers research their candidates online, and if they see inappropriate pictures, comments or anything else, they will ask the question, “Do I really want this person to represent our company?”

Teaching kids to share technology skills with their parents

Whenever Cutler teaches, he asks students to raise their hands if they are smarter than their parents when it comes to technology. Every hand is raised. So with that, he loves to encourage the kids to go home and show and teach their parents some cool things they are doing online to begin a dialog.

Both teachers and parents should help children understand the dark side of technology and the importance of keeping their passwords and personal information private. If students of all ages know how to conduct themselves safely online, it will improve their personal and professional lives.

Erin Flynn Jay is a writer, editor and publicist, working mainly with authors and small businesses since 2001. Erin’s interests also reach into the educational space, where her affinity for innovation spurs articles about early childhood education and learning strategies.

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