Talking Safely Online (3-5)

What’s the difference between Internet friends and in-person friends?

Students learn that, while people can develop rewarding friendships online, they should be cautious with online-only friends and never reveal private information without asking a parent or trusted adult for permission.

Students discuss the difference between online and in-person friendships, explore an online chat scenario, and complete and sign a checklist for safe online chatting.

Students will be able to ...

  • compare and contrast online-only friends and in-person, face-to-face pals.
  • analyze why private information should not be given to anyone online without the permission of a trusted adult.
  • debate how to respond if an online-only friend asks them personal questions.

Materials and Preparation

  • Chalkboard or white board
  • Copy The Right Answer Student Handout, one for every student.
  • Copy the Chatting Safety Checklist Student Handout, one for every student.

Teaching Plans


Warm-up (10 minutes)

INVITE students to share their experiences chatting online, instant messaging, and posting on message boards.

EXPLAIN that sometimes kids might chat online with people they have never met in person.

CHALLENGE students to explain the differences between communicating with friends they know from school and their neighborhood and communicating with people they have never met in person.

EXPLAIN that although kids can have fun chats with online-only friends, they should recognize that they don’t know these friends as well as they do in-person ones. Therefore, they need to be cautious in what they share.

ASK: Can you ever really know if an online-only friend is male or female?
No, because in some cases people purposefully may change their identity.

ASK: Can you know for sure how old an online-only friend is?
No. Since all communication is online, it is easy for someone to reveal only part of his or her identity.

REMIND students that they should talk to online-only friends with caution, and never reveal private information that could put them in danger in any way. Never give online-only friends private information about yourself, such as your address or phone number, without first asking permission from a parent or guardian.

teach 1

You're in Charge (5 minutes)

DISTRIBUTE The Right Answer Student Handout.

HAVE students read the scenario about Sita and CJcool11, and then answer the handout questions individually.

Note: Students will refer back to this handout in Teach 3.

teach 2

Stay Safe (10 minutes)

ASK: Why may it be easier to share school problems with an online-only friend than an in-person, face-to-face friend?
It may be easier because online-only friends are not from school, so they might be able to see both sides of an issue, as they don’t have to worry about what the others in your school will think.

REMIND students that they can’t know for sure that an online-only friend is really a kid or someone they can trust. Make sure they know it’s easy to hide your real identity when you’re online.

ASK: Have you ever pretended to be someone you are not? If so, when?
Answers may include Halloween, school plays, jokes.

EXPLAIN to students that online-only friends might sometimes pretend too. They might not really be who students think they are. That’s why it’s important for students to never share their private information with online-only friends without asking a parent or guardian first. They wouldn’t give private information to a stranger without asking, and it’s important for them to treat online-only friends the same way.

Note: If students ask why, you can explain that there are criminals who trick people into giving out private information about others. Then they use that private information to pretend to be them. This is called identity theft. They might even pretend to be them in order to steal their money. Giving out certain pieces of information to strangers can also let them know where you are located. This could be dangerous.

ASK: What’s private information?
Answers may include address, phone number, passwords, etc.

EXPLAIN that private information includes (write the following on the board):

  • full name
  • birth date
  • age
  • passwords
  • address
  • credit card number
  • phone number
  • mother’s maiden name
  • name of school
  • family members’ workplaces
  • email address
  • photos in which you can be recognized

REMIND students that if an online-only friend asks for any of this private information, they should tell a trusted adult.

DISCUSS with students that the best way to talk safely to online-only friends is on a website that’s just for kids. Most of these sites have adult monitors that check the chat and messaging. A monitor is like a referee at a game. Monitors keep track of the chat to make sure that everyone keeps the chat on topic, uses good manners, and stays safe.

teach 3

Check It Out (5 minutes)

DISTRIBUTE the Chatting Safety Checklist Student Handout.

HAVE students read, discuss, complete, and sign the checklist.

HAVE students revisit their responses to The Right Answer Student Handout.

ASK: Would you change your advice to Sita?
Answers will vary.

DISCUSS possible answers with students. Point out that Sita and CJcool11 are online-only friends, not in-person, face-to-face friends. Therefore, Sita needs to be cautious in what information she shares with CJcool11.

REMIND students that they never should share private information about themselves without first asking a parent or a trusted adult. Also, they never should answer questions that make them feel uncomfortable.

EXPLAIN that when Sita’s online-only friend asks her “Where is your school?” she could answer “I’d rather not say,” or “That’s private information.” Point out that Sita doesn’t have to answer at all. She can just log out of the chat room or website, or block the person who is asking the questions.

REMIND kids that when people persist in asking any question that makes them feel uncomfortable, they can ask a trusted adult to help them report these people to the website owners.


Wrap-up (5 minutes)

You can use these questions to assess your students’ understanding of the lesson objectives. You may want to ask students to reflect in writing on one of the questions, using a journal or an online blog/wiki.

How are online-only friends and in-person, face-to-face friends different?
Even when you share personal thoughts with an online-only friend, this person is as much a stranger as someone you meet on the street for the first time. You know in-person friends much better. Just seeing them in school or around your neighborhood gives you a lot of information about them.

ASK: What kind of information should you not share with online-only friends?
Never give out private information without first asking the permission of a parent or guardian. Students should recall some of the examples of private information listed in Teach 2.

ASK: What should you do when someone you don’t know asks for private information?
Don’t respond, then tell a parent or guardian about it.

Extension Activity

Have kids find kid-friendly websites that have monitors in their chat areas. Ask them to visit a couple of these websites and observe the chatting that is occurring. Ask them to reflect on whether anyone is revealing private information. They should report back to the class and think about ways websites could reinforce to the kids not to reveal such private information.

At-Home Activity

Have students review the examples of private information listed in Teach 2 with a parent or family member. They should discuss the list and modify it as they see fit. Then have students create a mnemonic device with their family to help them recall examples of private information in the future.

Alignment with Standards

Common Core & NETS•S
Common Core State Standards Initiative ©2012 & National Educational Technology Standards for Students ©2007, International Society for Technology in Education

Common Core:

  • grade 3: RI.1, RI.4, RI.10, R.4a, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.1d, SL.3, SL.4, SL.6, L.3a, L.6
  • grade 4: RL.10, RI.3, RI.4, RI.7, RI.9, RI.10, RF.4a, W.9b, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.1d, SL.4, L.3a, L.6
  • grade 5: RL.10, RI.3, RI.4, RI.7, RI.9, RI.10, RF.4a, W.9b, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.1d, SL.4, SL.6, L.6

NETS•S: 2b, 5a