News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 2, 2014

Students learn (Inter)net-etiquette

Manners, text-speak lessons guide Vigo kids in online awareness

TERRE HAUTE — Beware not to turn into a “Potty Mouth Pete” when using the Internet.

James Young, media specialist at Meadows Elementary School, used a short video with animated characters like Pete, as well as Clicky, Nettie, Router, and Webster, to teach a morning class of 22 third graders about Internet safety.

It’s part of a new program to reach Vigo County School Corp. students from first to fifth grades and teach about using “Netiquette,” or manners on the Internet, Young said.

“This is the first year to implement an Internet safety program. It’s age appropriate. The early lessons revolve around topics such as if you see something online that make you uncomfortable, tell an adult,” Young said.

“We are trying to basically instill the same ‘stranger danger’ sort of sense into the Internet world,” Young said, especially for use on electronics while students are at home.

Young emphasized to students not to reveal names or ages to people on the Internet or to type in all caps “which is like yelling.”

“Also, you would not type something to someone you would not say in front of your mom and dad or a teacher,” he said.

Young said sarcasm is hard to detect on the Internet, “so if you are joking, use LOL (Laugh Out Loud) or a smiley face,” he said. He also warned against forwarding spam. Even sites such as Facebook can put viruses on computers from videos that are viewed, Young told students.

The new curriculum utilizes parts of NetSmartz, a program from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which works to prevent the online victimization of youths by teaching them how to stay safer online and in the real world.

The school corporation has provided instruction and guidance in the safe and effective use of the Internet for some time at the secondary level or in association with its introduction to the use of computer labs or the use of computers for research, said Jerry Hargis, technology director for the Vigo County School Corp.

All Vigo schools use Internet filters and approved bookmarked sites.

Federal and state regulators have implemented rules and laws that relate to the safety and effective use of the Internet. As part of federal funding that the school corporation receives for telecommunications services, the school corporation is now required to certify compliance with the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act.

“Children are being introduced to computer and Internet use at younger and younger ages. It is now common even for preschool aged children to have some experience with Internet connected devices such as smart phones and tablets,” Hargis said.

“Children may participate in a variety of social media and Internet-based activities to the extent that it can become a significant part of their social and academic lives by the time they are entering middle school,” Hargis said.

“Without any formal introduction to the safe and responsible use of the Internet, they may find themselves in situations for which they have no context or understanding about appropriate behavior or how they can protect themselves from misuse of the Internet and its resources by others,” Hargis said.

Young told students they “always have a choice of whether you want to be rude or nice to your friends” on the Internet.

He passed out a sheet of eight classroom etiquette rules and asked students to rewrite each rule as an “netiquette” rule.

The netiquette rules students learned were don’t be mean to others online; tell a trusted adult if someone is being mean online; don’t type in all caps; don’t use foul language online; don’t forward spam; don’t share your friends’ information online; don’t steal files such as music or movies; and help “newbies” to learn about netiquette.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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