Port Townsend Leader’s Nicholas Johnson interviewed Linda Criddle about the development and roll-out of the LOOKBOTHWAYS Foundation’s NetSkills4Life curriculum that will be available to the public this coming fall. Here are excerpts from that interview Online safety made simple for schools.
Most of us – children and adults alike – browse, surf, click, search, download, upload, link and post with little thought toward protecting privacy or questioning content. The Internet remains a bit of a free-for-all where users with any and all motivations come together to share words, images and ideas, as well as goods and services. But what about those who aren’t interested in sharing, but instead, in taking, collecting?
“People don’t realize what they are sharing,” said Criddle, an expert on Internet crime and safety. “They do not realize that all those disparate things they said at different times create a very detailed map.”
In an effort to bring comprehensive, user-friendly Internet safety curriculum into the classroom, Criddle has developed a free, computer-based curriculum called NetSkills4Life through her nonprofit foundation, Look Both Ways. The curriculum is set to embark on a testing phase around May 15, and both Port Townsend and Chimacum fifth- and sixth-graders will be among the nearly 1,400 students to take part around the state.
The goal is to help students understand the risks and responsibilities of online life while actively preparing them to be safe, self-aware online citizens.
“NetSkills4Life is free and private for everyone,” Criddle said. “You don’t have to register. You don’t have to give us a ton of information. We don’t want it.”
Designed to be light, the curriculum consists of three one-hour lessons per grade level, meaning teachers can easily work them into class time or assign them as homework. Beyond that, Criddle said, the curriculum demands [no technical or safety skills] of teachers, who often feel as overwhelmed by technology as students.
The lessons are built on a game platform, making them interactive and engaging. The idea is to go beyond simple advice, and prompt the student to see potential danger, know how to confront it and then actually do it.
“We are very focused on ensuring that not only do they understand the concepts, but they master the skills they need,” Criddle said. “If you teach kids about bicycle traffic safety awareness and you never teach them how to ride a bike, they are still going to wobble in front of the car, because they don’t have the skills to ride better.”
Criddle knows the advantages of responsible online citizenship in a competitive world. “We are not, as a culture, embracing technology and its opportunities the way we need to,” she said. “U.S. schools are far behind other schools around the world in adopting the Internet, embracing and using it. I frankly believe our competitive advantage is at risk if we do not help schools, families and individuals step up and feel confident.”
“The parent who fails to have their kid fully prepared for the Internet world when they graduate from high school has not succeeded in preparing their children for an adult life,” Criddle said.