golden puppy in a grey dog bed "Not everyone online is as harmless as me."

Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety

For about 5 years, I have been giving assemblies at many of our district’s elementary schools on digital citizenship and internet safety. Several times, I have been asked to share the presentations which have been modified from NetSmartz presentations. NetSmartz has given me the okay to share (links at the end of this post).

NOTE: Having a one-off assembly is only a starting point and should not be the only strategy used to handle this issue. Check out “How to Stop Bullying in Schools” by Megan Holohan for more tips on what works and what doesn’t.

NetSmartz character saying

Each year, I try to change them up a little, adding anecdotes or new tips. They are in 3 categories: Transitional Kindergarten through 1st grade (15-20 minutes), 2nd and 3rd grade (about 20 minutes), and then 4th – 6th grade (about 30 minutes) with sometimes an extra time with just 6th.

Some tips:

  • Accept now that you CANNOT stop all bullying! Your child, your student, even YOU will probably be bullied at some point. I can still remember the girl who teased me in elementary school, where we were, what she was wearing, and what she said to me. I was not (and still am not) a fashion maven, but back then, we had moved from small towns in the Midwest to Southern California and did not have a lot of money.
  • Words have power. Please never say they don’t. When you remember the full name of an 8 year old classmate decades later, words have power. I read that there should be 5 or more positive comments to negative comments. Aim to be the one on the positive side of that ratio.

So what can you do?

Be a presence in children’s lives. Encourage them to speak up (diplomatically, when possible) if they see something wrong. Allow them to ask questions. Teach them how to handle a bully. Role play.

During the assemblies, I ask for 2 volunteers and make one of them “the bully” (often the smaller of the 2 since bullies are usually portrayed as bigger). Next, I ask “the bully” to show the group a mean face. (This often involves growling or giggling.) Then I walk “the victim” through how to respond.

  • “Can you ask them to stop?” Yes.
  • “Does that work?” No.
  • “Could you walk away?” Yes, but they might follow.

Next step, I whisper to the student to walk towards their teacher and tell the other to follow. “Is the bully going to continue now?” No! “Why not?” Because there is a teacher! Walk towards a teacher, a staff member, a parent volunteer, or, if you can’t find an adult, I tell the primary students to find the tallest 6th grader (and let the teachers know that I’ll be telling the 6th graders about it at their assembly so they aren’t surprised if small children suddenly stand next to them.)

This is also a fun moment to role play how students REALLY approach their teacher: “TEACHER! TEACHER! TEACHER!” Try to infuse some lighthearted moments so the assembly doesn’t feel like all doom and gloom. I ask them if their parents like when they tug on them and say, “Mom Mom Mom Mommmmmm” or “Dad Dad Dad Dadddddddddd” to get their attention. The students always laugh and shake their heads no.

Next, I give them a few more options. Compliment the bully! It will often surprise them and render them speechless so you can walk away. Bullies probably don’t feel good about themselves so pay them a compliment. It is really hard to say something negative when being complimented. Brooks Gibbs has a great YouTube video to illustrate this (starts at the 3:44 mark until the end). 

For the last option, I tell the students that me giving assemblies isn’t going to stop bullying. Even adults have to deal with bullying so the goal is to give them response skills. I let them know that though I can’t stop the bullying, but they can! If you see bullying happening, step in and try the steps above. If you don’t feel strong enough to stand up to the bully, just ignore them and invite your friend to walk over to a game or activity. If the bully follows, head towards a grownup.

In summary:

  • Ask them to stop.
  • Walk away.
  • Walk towards an adult.
  • Smile and compliment the bully.
  • Or, if none of those work, hopefully a peer steps up to assist.

pile of Halloween candy Another area we discuss is using the internet. The internet is amazing, but I compare it to a bowl of Halloween candy. Some candy you love, others… not so much, and too much of it can make you sick. Find those pieces that you enjoy and avoid the others!

What's the difference between an online-only friend and a face to face friend? clipart from Phillip Martin ClipartA few weeks ago, I presented at my young nephew’s school. We talked about being safe online and not talking to strangers. If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it online. I give them an example: Would you stand in the middle of the park and shout your name, age, where you live? Then don’t do it online!

During Easter dinner, my adult niece asked how I met my friend, Bonnie, who was coming to visit from out of state. “Online.” I quickly learned that my young nephew had been paying CLOSE attention during the assembly. “Auntie! You said NOT to meet people online!” Oops. I was busted. To clarify, Bonnie and I met about 20 years ago in an online forum for a Disney game. She worked security at the parks (which I was able to verify online) and knew I was a teacher. We chatted online and finally met in person about 10 years later at Disneyland, a very public place, and we were both adults so I stand by my recommendation to children about meeting people online, but do internally laugh a bit, especially now.

Parents often ask if I talk about sexting. Yes, elementary students have had issues with this! It’s sad and scary so, yes, I do address it, but from a different angle thanks to a colleague’s idea. I put up this picture of a young girl with a GIANT snot bubble.

young girl with a giant snot bubble coming out of her nose

This definitely gets their attention. I found this image online marked with Creative Commons rights which means someone posted this picture! We talk about pictures that may seem funny to share with friends, but what if you aren’t friends in a few weeks? Or what about in a few years when you both like the same person? Guess what is going to be shared!

If you take a picture you want to share, SHOW it to your friends, don’t SEND it. That way, you retain control of the image. Once you send an image, you cannot take it back and you no longer get to decide who sees it. This often opens up a discussion that they may want to have with their parents about posting pictures. (Think of how your child would feel about that picture in 10 years, 20 years before posting it.)

Hopefully, this will give you some ideas to talk to your children and/or students. I’ve included the presentation links and other resources that I recommend. If you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Twitter @filibuster3.

Below are the links to my 2018-2019 PowerPoint presentations (note, some fonts may be different on your device and need reformatting):

UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 school closures, I wasn’t able to get to all the school sites this year so I’ve started doing voiceovers and posting the presentations to YouTube.


Recently, in an ISTE discussion, @belmedia shared these resources which I found SPOT ON!

When Kids Realize Their Whole Life is Already Online (The Atlantic)


Film Club: ‘If you Didn’t ‘Sharent,’ Did You even Parent?’ (The New York Times-Learning Network)

Note: The short film could be used with students or parents. 


I’m 14, and I quit social media after discovering what was posted about me (Fast Company)

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Between us, we've taught for over 30 years in CTE, business, technology, elementary education, and special education. G is a teacher who enjoys sailing and photography. K is a tech trainer with a passion for writing, reading, and baking. We also love spending time with our 2 rescue dogs.

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