April 14

Keeping Online Gaming Safe and Kind

Here is a workshop that can be used from grade 1 to grade 4.  We will talk about some of the most important ways we can stay safe and kind online while gaming.

  • Protecting our game passwords
  • Not sharing personal information in game chats
  • Being kind in game chats
  • Not being overly competitive
  • Finding our media balance
  • And remembering to be a great digital citizen

Here is a link to just the slides!

January 27

Reflecting on Roblox

Considerations for Parents

If you are the parent of an elementary aged student there is a pretty good chance your kids are on Roblox.  Roblox is an online game or app in which players from around the world converge in different games that are created by its own users or professional game development groups.  Some games, such as Adopt Me! get a lot more play than others.  On October 10, 2020, Adopt Me! reached 1,786,076 concurrent players (data from the Roblox Wikia) and these popular games require multiple servers to accommodate the amount of players on the game.  Players gain Robux game currency by overcoming challenges or accomplishing tasks and this money allows them to buy new clothes and faces for their avatars, new houses, new vehicles, new pets, etc…  Parents can also connect a credit card to the players account so that kids can buy Robux.  Kids quickly get hooked on these games and on making purchases.

So let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of the Roblox revolution.

Pros

  • These games allow friends to connect in what is essentially an online playground.  That means that during a pandemic when kids aren’t having playdates in the real world, they can play together in the Roblox world.  There is a chat feature that allows kids to chat with their friends (or anyone else in that game on that server), but I have noticed that most kids put their friends on Facetime or in a Google Meet and then play together.  This allows them to talk to each other while they play which makes them feel like they are hanging out.
  • The game allows ample room for creativity.  Kids can design their own Roblox games which is an amazing feature.  They decide the rules for their game (villains, time limits, the world it is in, music, reward system, etc…)  The sky is the limit in terms of game design.
  • They learn how to earn money by accomplishing tasks just like they do in the real world with chores!
  • You can easily set up a chore/Robux reward system at home.  For example, if your child makes their bed and cleans their room each day, they earn a certain amount of Robux at the end of the week that you pay for.  I use this system for my own daughter and it is amazing how easy it is to get her to clean her room now!

Cons

  • Kids enjoyment of Roblox very rapidly turns into an addiction.  Managing screen time becomes of the utmost importance as it can quickly spiral out of control with this game.  Many of the games that are the most popular simply never end, so play can go on indefinitely.
  • Some of the games have scary or violent themes involving horror movie characters or shooting.  You may want to dictate which Roblox games you approve of and which ones you don’t.  There is a parental control setting that allows you to choose the games you want to allow.
  • Kids can chat with strangers.  This can be turned off by parents in the parental control settings or parents can choose to regularly check your child’s chat history by logging in.  The only thing I will say in defense of the chat feature though is that it is monitored by Roblox so kids aren’t allowed to swear, say anything suggestive, say anything political or religious, etc…  Kids who violate the rules are banned from the game.  However, by the time they get banned the damage may have been done, so be aware that it is always a possibility.
  • If you want to raise a voracious consumer with a deeply ingrained love of capitalism then this is the game for you.  Kids will constantly need more and more Robux to be happy and will bug you for them all the time!

Each parent will have different opinions as to why or why they do not allow their kids to play Roblox.  I allow my 9-year old daughter to play because it is a great way for her to connect with friends during lockdowns and Robux are a great incentive for her to do her chores every day without being asked.  But it is highly addictive and has caused its fair share of arguments about screen time.  So I have personally experienced many of these pros and cons!

If your kids are playing Roblox regularly I would encourage you to stay in the loop.  Find out what games they are playing on Roblox, who they chat with regularly, and make sure that you need to approve any and all in-app purchases so they can’t be automatically charging your credit card.  Sit with them and watch them play for a while.  Most kids will love to share about these games with you.  Open communication with your kids about their online lives is the best way to keep your kids safe online.

To find out more about the parental control settings visit:  https://en.help.roblox.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000375686-Account-Restrictions

 

January 21

Let’s Think About Our Digital Footprints

A New Nearpod Lesson

I have created a new Nearpod lesson that can be used anywhere from grade 4 to grade 8 in which we will learn about Digital Footprints.  Digital Footprints are the tracks you leave all over the internet every time you go online.  Any time you visit a website, leave a comment, post a picture, create a post on social media, post a video on youtube, participate in online chats, etc… you are leaving behind a digital footprint.  It is extremely important to be aware of this because these footprints are permanent and searchable.  In this Nearpod lesson you will participate in polls, quizzes, and a game of ‘Time to Climb’ to learn about this topic.

If you aren’t a Nearpod user, here is more on the topic of Digital Footprints;

Let’s watch this little video about Digital Footprints created by Common Sense Education.

It may seem impossible to believe but 15 years from now a future employer may be Googling your name and finding the mean comments you left all over YouTube, or the crazy photos you posted on social media, and thinking you may not be the best person to hire for a job!  More importantly for today though, the things you are posting now will find their way back to parents and teachers.  Here are some tips from safesitter.org to making sure that the tracks we leave online are the good kind!

So let’s think about some places online we need to be extra careful…

Game Chats

  • Never share private information like your address, full name, school, phone number, or email in a game chat.
  • Don’t make rude or mean comments in a game chat.  Not only will it get you banned from the game, it will be permanently logged.

YouTube, TikTok, and Social Media Comments

  • The comments you post online should be supportive and kind.  Hurtful comments can never be erased, even if you delete the post.  It is very easy for others to screenshot and share the things you’ve posted.

The Sites You Visit

  • Make sure you are visiting sites that are appropriate and approved by parents and teachers.  Every site you visit shows up in your Search History and can be seen by parents and school administrators.

Your Messenger Chats

  • Most parent-approved texting apps like Messenger Kids allow parents to see every chat.  Other chat apps allow friends and family to screenshot and save messages.  So be aware of the kinds of photos and messages you are texting with others.  What you say today may be online forever.

Your Social Media and Blog Posts

  • Make sure that all of the videos, photos and posts you put online are ones you’d be happy to share forevermore, because that is how long they will be searchable online!
  • Never post pictures of your friends without their permission.
  • Make sure you have parental permission to be posting certain kinds of posts on the internet.

January 13

Online Safety Workshop – Protect Your Passwords!

You might have heard that there are some very commonly used passwords that you should never use because they are very easy for hackers to figure out.  Passwords we should never use include;

  • your pet’s name
  • your own name
  • your siblings name
  • your birthday
  • your street name
  • password
  • 123456
  • abc123
  • iloveyou
  • princess
  • dragon

But how do we create a strong password and keep them safe?  This video slideshow will help you learn some easy tricks to creating and protecting your passwords.

Activity

We are going to learn how to create a super strong password by playing the game Password Protect on the Common Sense Education website.  Remember, when you are finished, don’t share your super strong password with anyone except for your parents or teachers!

May 12

C is for Cookie

Middle School Digital Literacy Lesson

Whenever you visit a new site, you will most often get a message notifying you that the site uses cookies.  Sometimes it will give you an option to choose to continue with cookies or not.  You may have felt very confused about what a cookie was… is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Could it harm my computer or device?

Or maybe you were talking about something with your device near at hand, and then noticed an ad for something connected to what you were talking about an hour later.  Coincidence?  Not at all.  This video explains how and why this happens, and what exactly a cookie is.

Your Assignment:

After watching the video, I want you to pair up with a friend who you share often with on social media.  Imagine you are trying to collect data from each other’s information to target them with ads.  What can you find out about your friend that would help you target products to them?  Example:  I notice that my friend is always posting photos of her dog online.  If I were an advertiser, I would target her with ads for fancy dog toys, furniture, and biscuits.  She often comments about how much she misses her family in Israel.  I would target her with ads for chat products like Houseparty, Zoom, etc…  See how many you can come up with.  Write them in a Google Doc and submit to b.ruel@theojcs.ca

May 11

Remembering to be a Digital Citizen While Gaming

By now you are all amazing digital citizens when you’re online; you protect your private information, you don’t post mean comments on other people’s blogs, photos, or videos.  You are careful about the websites you visit and you balance your time online.  Now let me ask you this…

Do you remember to be a good digital citizen while you’re gaming?

What I mean by that is, when you are playing a game online like Roblox, Fortnite, or other games where you interact with other players online, are you remembering your online safety and digital citizenship rules?

Scenario 1:

You are playing a game in which players can chat with one another and you make a new friend.  This friend starts asking you personal questions like ‘what school do you go to?’ and ‘what’s your address?’

What do you do?

Answer:  It is great to make new friends online, but we still need to make sure and always protect our personal information.  Don’t tell strangers where you live, what school you go to, personal passwords, your full name, etc…  It is never safe to share this kind of information online.

Scenario 2:

During a game you notice one character won’t leave you alone.  They are continuously attacking your player or making rude comments to you in chat.  You really want to be mean back but you are afraid to get reported and blocked.

What do you do?

Answer: Don’t retaliate (i.e. be rude back.)  Just report the players behaviour to the game and show your parents or teachers.  These kind of players will end up getting blocked (kicked-out permanently) from the game.  Better them and not you.  After reporting them, log out for a while and try again later.

Scenario 3:

You have been playing a game for over an hour and you still can’t beat a certain level.  You notice your anger level spiking really high.  Your little brother keeps coming in your room and distracting you and you want to yell at him because it’s his fault you can’t beat the level.

What do you do?

Answer:  It is important that we notice how our emotions are being affected by the games we are playing.  If we are starting to feel angry, frustrated, rageful, and irritated, that is an indication that you have played long enough.  That is your body’s way of telling you you’ve had enough screen time.  Turn off the device and go outside to play if you can.  Nothing clears away those bad feelings faster than fresh air.  And bring your little brother with you to play!  He was only bothering you because he wanted a bit of attention too!  When next you play the game you will be playing with a clear head and have a much better chance of beating that level.

Here is a video where you can see some of these online scenarios in play.

Your assignment:

Play a video game (Yes, you heard right.  Make sure you have permission of course!)  While you play, notice and write down a few examples of some of the positive and some of the negative interactions you have with other players.  If your game doesn’t involve other players online, just write down some positive or negative feelings you experience while playing (having fun, getting frustrated, fighting with your brother etc…)  Then you will post your observations in the comments on this page.  It will be interesting to see what we all experience.

April 28

Steering Clear of Online Tricks!

Lower School Phishing Lesson

Have you ever had a message pop-up on your computer saying that you have a virus but if you click a certain button you can fix it?  Or that if you click on a link you can get a free iphone?  Or an email in your inbox from someone you’ve never met asking you for something?  These are the most common examples of online tricks and scams called ‘PHISHING.’  Yep, the word sounds just like FISHING.  That’s because, the scammers are fishing for your personal information.  Your address, your phone number, your passwords, and sometimes your bank information or your parent’s credit card number!

They are doing this because they want to be able to get money from us or to pretend to be you when they are online.  It is important that we learn to recognize what these kind of tricks look like so we don’t get tricked into sharing our personal information online.  Learning to decide what is real and what is fake is one of the main skills of a great digital citizen, and a great online detective!

A few ways you can avoid phishing tricks online;

  • If you get an email from someone you don’t know and it looks suspicious, don’t open it!  Show it to your parents and they can show you how you can report it as spam/junk mail.  Spam is a kind of bad email that nobody wants.
  • If you get a message saying that you’ve won some big prize, or that you can get something free by answering a survey or paying a very low price, don’t believe it!  If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!
  • If something pops up on your computer saying that your computer has a virus and you need to do something to get rid of it, don’t click the button.  Show it to your parents or teacher and they will know what to do.
  • Protect your private accounts by always signing out of public devices (like school or public library computers and ipads.)

To learn some of these tricks and scams and what to do about them, we are going to play the Google game Interland, and the world/level called Reality River.  You will listen to each question.  You will then be given answer choices.  You can see each of the choices by clicking on each different platform.  Once you’ve decided where you want to go, double-click it to select it.  You will find out if your answer was correct or not.  If it’s not you will fall in the river!  Have fun, and if you have questions about phishing or online scams you can post them in the comments on this page and I will answer them.

Click Here To Play Interland Reality River

April 27

Phishing For YOUR Personal Information

Middle School Phishing Lesson for the week of May 4th

You may have heard the word phishing  in relation to online safety and wondered what it meant.  Imagine that YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION is the fish these phishers are fishing for.  Your phone number, address, financial information, passwords, etc…  Phishers are online scammers who are trying to get you to provide them with your personal information so that they can use your identity and/or get financial information from you.

A few common examples of phishing scams are;

  • emails from people you don’t know, saying that you’ve won something you didn’t try to win, or saying that something is wrong and you need to immediately provide them with information or something bad could happen
  • a pop-up link saying you have a virus and need to provide information to get rid of it
  • a pop-up link offering you something for free if you do a survey

It is important that we learn to recognize these scams so that we keep our own and our parents personal information safe.  Never respond to these kind of links or emails and report them when possible.  And when in doubt, show them to a parent or teacher to find out if it’s real or not.

I want you to watch this video and then post in the comments if any of these phishing scams has ever happened to you or someone in your family and what it looked like.

Share information about phishing scams with parents, grandparents, and friends so that everyone can protect their identity online.

April 23

A First Look At Online Safety

Online Safety for Grade 1

The internet is an amazing place to spend our time, but we need to learn some basic safety rules for when we are online.  Just like how when we learn to drive we learn the rules of the road first, we need to learn online safety rules before we start exploring on the internet.

ABCya! is a great site for educational games, but it also has a great online safety video and quiz we can use to learn the most important rules of internet safety.  It is called Cyber-Five.  Click on the picture and get started with the video, and then take the quiz when you’re done. 

If you have any questions after you’ve watched the video and completed the quiz, be sure and include them in the comments on this page and I will answer them to the best of my ability!

Webinars for Parents

Parents can participate in Trend Micro’s 20 minute online safety webinar series.  They are free and led by some of the world’s foremost experts.

Internet Safety Webinars For Parents