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Google curriculum to help kids learn internet safety
June 12, 2017, 11:43 am

Google has launched an educational program designed to teach kids about phishing, internet harassment, passwords, and other internet safety issues. Called ‘Be Internet Awesome’, it includes a classroom curriculum and a video game called Interland. It was developed with help from teachers, YouTube videographers, and internet safety and literacy organizations, and resources are now available online for free.

Be Internet Awesome tackles topics that are relevant to all ages, though it is seemingly aimed at younger children. It includes sections on how to limit sharing personal information with people online, avoid falling for scams or phishing attacks, creating strong passwords, and avoiding negative behavior online.

The program includes a range of quizzes, role-playing activities, and other abstract exercises. In the ‘Share with Care’ module, students look at a made-up social media profile and cross out information that a parent, employer, or future self might look poorly upon. In ‘Don’t Fall for Fake’, they decide whether a series of webpages and emails look real or fake. And ‘It’s Cool to be Kind’ urges kids to avoid responding or reacting to hurtful messages, as well as block and report bullies.

Interland, the accompanying video game, is less like a training tool and more like a sweetener that could get students interested in the material. ‘Mindful Mountain’, for example, turns the process of sharing specific posts with the right people into a spatial puzzle. Players promote positivity in a platforming game by tossing out friendly emoticons and hitting the ‘block’ button to trap trolls. The password security game is a Temple Run-style endless runner about collecting letters and symbols.

Even if this program is effective in teaching students the basic principles of internet use, we do not know how well it will translate into real-world social media use. But at the very least, it is a non-alarmist take on internet safety.

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