One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from educators about teaching digital safety and wellbeing in the classroom is that they don’t have the time. There are so many things to factor in. The busy curriculum, ever-changing timetables, sports days, concerts, curriculum days- you name it, and it’s likely a teacher has cut something out of their work program to fit it in. We know that teaching digital safety is integral to students thriving in the online world, but we also know the importance of literacy, numeracy, geography, P.E…. the list goes on, but the hours between 9:00am and 3:30pm stay the same.
Whilst our Live Streamed Excursions explicitly teach students from F-6 new digital safety content each term, there are plenty of other practical strategies educators can use to incorporate these key ideas into other aspects of the curriculum. Here are some ideas you can utilise with students across all year levels, sorted into specific writing genres, so that digital safety and wellbeing can fit effortlessly into your daily literacy block.
This genre is always a class favourite. As an educator, I’m sure you get tired of the same old persuasive topics- dogs are better than cats, animals should not be kept in zoos, we should ban school uniforms- you know the ones! Why not introduce topics that your students are invested in and are passionate about? Chances are, they’ve already argued with their parents about these at home!
These could include
Video games should be banned
Children should be limited to one hour of screen time a day
The internet does more harm than good
Screen time is good/bad for us
You can even start by having a line debate- choose a topic and children are split into two equal teams. One team is ‘agree’ and the other team is ‘disagree’, with each team then going back and forth sharing an argument for their side. If they have a convincing reason, they steal a player from the opposing team. Keep going until both teams have run out of arguments, and the team with the most players at the end wins. This is a great activity because when students are constantly switching teams, they have to consider both sides of the topic, forming a great foundation for a piece of persuasive writing.
For our juniors, writing about their own experiences is always a great starting point in the early stages of writing. Instead of students writing about what they did on the weekend each Monday, why not link their recounts to a certain aspect of digital safety and wellbeing? They can still include who, what, when, where and why; however this allows for a more succinct piece of writing whilst consolidating key online safety ideas.
Some examples could include, ‘Write a recount about a time when you….’
Played your favourite Green Time activity
Played your favourite Screen Time activity
Solved a problem by asking a Trusted Adult
Did something online/offline that was fun/amazing/awesome/confusing/scary
As much as I always loved teaching students to write a procedure on ‘How to Make Fairy Bread’ (ok fine, it was more the demonstration and getting to eat the fairy bread afterwards), there are definitely some children out there who have repeated that same lesson every year! Instead, let’s celebrate the skills and talents our students already have by encouraging them to teach their classmates about a topic that they’re already an expert at.
This could include
How to (play their favourite screen time game, eg. build something in Minecraft)
How to (do something on a device, eg. create a website)
How to (favourite green time activity, eg. play a sport, make a craft etc)
Students get to share their amazing skills with the class, you get to learn a bit more about what makes them tick, and no-one needs to stay back after school vacuuming 100s and 1000s out of the carpet- that's a win for everyone!
Narratives are a great way for students to express their creativity and imagination, however many students need scaffolding in the way of characters, settings or general plot ideas to get their ideas flowing. This is where digital safety can be weaved in!
Story ideas could include
A character who experiences a problem online- they rely on their body’s early warning signs when they’re feeling uncomfortable and seek help from a trusted adult
A character who has trouble balancing screen time with green time- how can they solve this problem?
Using the characters and storylines from our Ollie Online, Adventures Online or Thrive Online live streamed excursions and reimagining an alternate ending.
Whilst information reports often sit alongside a unit of Inquiry (habitats, animals, natural disasters), why not use this genre to explore some of the key components of the digital technologies and/or health & physical education curriculum.
Some topics could include:
What is the internet?
Balancing screen time and green time
What are the impacts of screen time on our health and wellbeing?
What are the different options available to users on the internet to block, report and get help?
Whilst our Live Streamed Excursions answer these questions, students can also use resources to gather more information and practise their research skills. We suggest simplified news websites for students such as Kids News, Time for Kids and Behind the News (BTN), or our information videos such as ‘How screen time can affect sleep’ and What is the internet?
Lastly, a few tips:
Be positive. Whilst we need to make students aware of the risks involved when they’re online, it’s equally as important to highlight the positive aspects of digital technology and how it can be used safely and responsibly.
Make it fun. Using these topics in your writing lessons helps your students to relate to the content, and provides an insight for you, the teacher, about their personal interests within the online world.
Share it with others. Utilise digital platforms such as SeeSaw, blogs, Google Sites, the school newsletter etc. to showcase your students' work. Not only does this give their writing a purpose, it also reinforces to parents and carers that your school community prioritises the teaching of digital safety and wellbeing continuously throughout the year and not just as a ‘once-off’.
Incorporating digital safety and wellbeing into your writing lessons can be a powerful tool to reinforce key online safety concepts, develop self-reflection, critical thinking skills and engage students who may otherwise tune out during writing time because they just aren’t interested.
You can find a FREE sample of our downloadable writing templates from F-6 on our Free Teacher Resources page or by clicking below:
If you’re looking to supercharge your school’s digital safety and wellbeing, we’d welcome you to join over 42,000 students in our live stream incursions for 2024!
Laura Adcock is a primary school educator who has over 10 years of classroom experience, as well as holding a Masters in Learning Intervention . She now works with Inform and Empower as a Curriculum and Content Director and co-presents the years 3-6 live stream incursions for students.