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But Do They Get the Message?

It’s cute, it’s hip, it’s a cartoon, and it’s Internet safety but, do they get the message? During the last week of school we had an educational writer from NetSmartz® Workshop come to conduct focus groups with 30 of our third through sixth graders to get their opinions on their new Internet Safety videos for their NSTeens site. NetSmartz® Workshop is a company specializing in safety education for youth, parents, and educators. Created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), NetSmartz set forth to spearhead a movement towards safer and more responsible use of the Internet by kids and teens.

The writer showed each group of students, grouped by age (8-9 year olds, 10-11 year olds, and 11-12 year olds), the same three videos, each with a specific message on Internet safety. The videos for NSTeens are targeted to the tweens, between the ages of 8 and 12. After viewing each clip, she asked the students to summarize the message, what they liked, what they disliked, and what was confusing about the video. The younger students spoke up far more than the older ones, which, I found out, was typical of focus groups across the United States.

After watching the videos and listening to the discussion, it was evident that most of the students got the gist of the message of each video, even though all of the students felt that the characters in the videos were much older than they were. They missed many of the nuances regarding what led up to the message, but they were able to broadly identify the “lesson” each video was attempting to get across to kids. We did not look at NetSmartzKids, which may have been more appropriate for the younger group.

To summarize the educational value of NetSmartz from the source itself:
NetSmartz offers a wide variety of multimedia educational resources for children of all ages and their trusted adults to help foster positive choices on- and offline. Parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement can utilize innovative tools such as animated videos, community PowerPoint presentations, safety pledges, object lessons, and classroom activities at no cost from NetSmartz.org. Many of our materials are also available in Spanish to help meet the needs of Latino communities.

NetSmartz educational resources are specifically designed not to function as a traditional curriculum, but rather as adaptable tools which recognize the demanding curricula in today’s schools. Feedback from educators using NetSmartz in the classroom confirms that many prefer the flexibility of our program over other Internet safety curricula which require integration plans. Furthermore, our program resources adhere to nationally-mandated educational standards and utilize a variety of activities such as writing, role-playing, and drawing which appeal to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles all at once. NetSmartz is also aware of the evolving risks and issues to children on the Internet; therefore, our materials are constantly updated to reflect current trends and generational learning styles.

While television used to be the entertainment of choice for kids, particularly in the summer, it is now the Internet. As more and more kids access the Internet at school, and some with very little adult supervision, and we as educators take on more of the responsibility for disseminating information to students, this is one site that I would recommend to help promote Internet safety.

By Nancy Flynn 6/19/09

Resources:

Michelle Menillo, Educational Writer for Netsmartz Workshop.

You can view this website at www.netsmartz.org.

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