- Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
- Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
- Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
Bookmarked Sites and Video Resources:
- Cover Story: Sex Offenders on the Internet. September 22, 2000; Episode 404
Many sex offenders feel that, due to laws that allow their names and home addresses to be published online, their privacy is being unfairly violated. In this program, the privacy rights of sex offenders are explored.
- Feature: Civil Liberties. October 12, 2001; Episode 506
This program discusses a plan that allows federal agents to access private e-mail conversations and Internet usage in order to keep track of terrorists living within the United States. The benefits of this measure are weighed against the possibility that our right to privacy and our civil liberties will be compromised.
- Online NewsHour: Internet Privacy. May 26, 2000
In this interview, legislations that have been enforced to ensure Internet privacy are discussed.
- Online NewsHour: Copyright Angst. April 24, 2003
The entertainment industry has made great efforts to track down Internet users who illegally download copyrighted material; but many wonder if these measures have resulted in an invasion of personal privacy. This interview explores the necessity to carefully monitor Internet users to identify copyright violators.
- Privacy in the Internet Age. February 10, 2006
In this article, the government’s right to access private e-mail and telephone conversations in order to track terrorists is explored.
- PBS Parent’s Guide to Children and Media
This article is intended to help parents talk to their pre-teen children about some of the dangers of the Internet, as well as the importance of protecting their privacy and that of others when engaging in online activity.
- Federal Trade Commission: Kidz Privacy
This site provides tips for parents and teachers that can help protect the privacy of young Internet users. It also provides a section that speaks directly to kids who engage in online activity.
- Internet Privacy Resources
This site provides a variety of fact sheets and information resources on Internet privacy at work, at home, while shopping online, etc.
- San Diego County Office of Education: Ethical: “Information Technology: Instant Access – Ethical Minefield”
This site offers resources and background information on Internet ethics.
- University of Illinois Laboratory High School: Scenarios for Teaching Internet Ethics
This sites offers mini-case studies to discuss related to Internet issues.
- Cover Story: Sex Offenders on the Internet. September 22, 2000; Episode 404
RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web Sites:
Teachers will need the following supplies:
- A chalkboard, dry-erase board, or flip chart
- Chalk, dry-erase markers, or Sharpie markers
- Internet access (If students cannot access the Internet from their classroom, then handouts of Web resources will suffice.)
- Student Organizers 1, 2 and 3
What are You Willing to Share Online?
In this activity, students distinguish between information that can be safely shared online from information that should remain private.
- Provide students with Student Organizer 1.
- Explain to students that, in this activity, they will work independently to identify the type of information they are comfortable sharing on a chat board, in a blog, or on other public web venues (such as MySpace), and the type of information they prefer to keep private. They will also discuss the reasoning behind their choices, and they will explore some of the risks that might result from their decisions.
- Review the Student Organizer and instruct students to list the type of information they are willing to share in the left column, and information they prefer to keep private in the right column. (For example, students might be comfortable sharing their first name and personal interests online, but they might refrain from sharing their last name, home address, or phone number.)
- Allow students up to 10 minutes to complete this exercise. While students are working, create a two-column table (identical to the Student Organizer) on a chalk board, dry-erase board, or flip chart.
- When students have finished, ask volunteers to share some of their answers. Record these answers in the table you created in Step 4.
- After you have gathered responses from volunteers, note similarities between the responses you received, and point out any items that made their way into both columns. (For example, some students may have indicated that they would not share their last name online while others might have said they would.) Then, form a discussion with the class based on the following questions and any additional questions you feel are relevant:
- What drives your decision to limit the amount of information you share on chat boards, in blogs, or on other public websites?
- How do you determine which information is safe to share, and which information is not?
- What might be the consequences of sharing too much personal information online?
- How might your privacy be violated if you shared an excess of personal information online? (Note: High school students might not be fully aware of the dangers of making information such as their Social Security number public. If students did not mention this at any point during your discussion, you might consider touching on the dangers associated with sharing this information, such as identity theft.)
- After you have completed this discussion, ask students how they feel about posting personal feelings about others online. Would they do this? Is it appropriate to write hurtful or inappropriate things about a peer, teacher, or family member online? What would be the most probable effects – on the individual and on the community – of writing something hurtful or inappropriate about a peer, teacher, or family member online? Why or why not?
- Ask questions and encourage further discussion as necessary.
Activity 1 – Privacy Policies
In this activity, students conduct a survey to determine whether their peers are aware of the privacy policies of their favorite websites.
- Begin the activity by forming a brief discussion with students about Internet privacy policies. Ask students the questions below, and feel free to add or modify questions as you see fit.
- How much attention do most Internet users pay to privacy policies? How many of your peers read them before using certain websites?
- After you have completed your discussion, explain to students that they will survey 5-10 of their peers to determine their awareness and knowledge of Internet privacy policies.
- Distribute Student Organizer 2 and review the survey questions. Encourage students to ask additional questions as they wish during their surveys.
- When students have completed their surveys, form a collaborative discussion about their findings. Ask the following questions and any others you feel are relevant:
- Overall, to what extent are your peers aware of privacy policies that exist on the Internet?
- Were any of your peers surprised to learn that websites often sell personal information to other companies? Are your peers aware that their names and contact information may be stored in various databases without their knowledge or consent?
- Does the absence of privacy policies worry your peers? Why or why not?
- Were you surprised by the amount and type of personal information your peers are willing to share in public chat rooms, blogs, or on public websites?
- What advice would you offer your peers about staying safe and protecting their right to privacy when using the Internet?
- Encourage further discussion as necessary, and record key points on a chalk board, dry-erase board, or flip chart. Emphasize the importance of learning how websites use the information you provide online, and how or if they acquire personal information without the user’s knowledge. Explain that by taking simple measures to stay informed, students take great strides toward protecting their right to privacy.
Activity 2 – Slander
In this activity, students engage in a collaborative discussion to determine the kinds of personal remarks, if any, that can be made about others at school.
- Begin this activity by asking students if they can define the word “slander.”
- If students are unfamiliar with this word, choose a volunteer to look up the definition and share it with the rest of the class, or explain that slander is a false and hurtful statement that can hurt someone’s feelings and seriously damage his or her reputation.
- Divide students into groups of four and ask them to talk about slander and how it typically finds its way to the Internet. Students should consider the following questions as they complete their discussion:
- Do you think your peers post slander on the Internet?
- Where might they post these statements?
- Whom do they write about? Do they say malicious things about their peers or teachers? Do they talk badly about their school in general?
- When your peers post slanderous statements online, do you think they want the people they’re writing about to read the statements? Or, do you think they want their thoughts to remain private? Explain your answer.
- How do you think it would feel to learn that someone posted hurtful and untrue things about you online? Would you feel as though your privacy had been violated? Why or why not? What, if anything, would you do to salvage your reputation?
- Is there any difference between bullying someone at school and posting rumors about the person online? If so, what is the difference? If not, how are these two issues similar?
- In your opinion, what motivates someone to post slander about another person online?
- When students have finished the discussions, ask volunteers from each group to share their thoughts about slander, how it usually happens among their peers, where it is often posted on the Internet, the consequences of slander, and how it should be handled. Ask questions and encourage further discussion as necessary.
- Ask students to return to their groups and brainstorm ways the school administration can help stop slander among students. Are there organized steps that students, or groups of students, can take to help stop slander?
- When they have finished brainstorming, ask volunteers to share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Then, ask students to come to a consensus on which ideas might be combined to make the best possible proposal.
- Together with your class, write a brief proposal of no more than one or two paragraphs to the school administration. The proposal should offer a realistic and feasible suggestion for managing slander among students or helping students who have fallen victim to slander.
- Forward the proposal to the school administration.
In this activity, students work together to research laws that exist to protect the privacy of Internet users.
- Divide students into groups of four. Explain that in this activity, students will work together with their groups to research laws that exist to protect the privacy and personal safety of Internet users.
- Distribute Student Organizer 3. Review the questions that appear on the organizer, and feel free to add or modify questions as you wish.
- Instruct students to divide the questions equally among members of the group. (There are currently four questions on the organizer. In groups of four, each group member should take ownership of just one question.)
- Allow students to research answers to their question at home that evening. If students do not have access to the Internet or other research tools at home, schedule time in your school’s library or computer lab for those students to complete their research.
- When students have completed their research, ask them to share what they learned. Ask students to identify the resources they used to find this information, and note similarities and differences that exist among students’ answers.
- When students have finished sharing their findings, ask them the following questions and any other questions you feel are relevant:
- Do you feel safer knowing there are laws to protect your privacy and personal safety online? Why or why not?
- Do you feel the laws that exist are either too lenient or too strict? How would you change them?
- Did researching the laws that exist to protect you make you think about online risks that you might not have thought of earlier? Can you name some examples?
- Now that you’re familiar with these laws, do you think your Internet habits will change at all? If so, how?
- Ask questions and encourage further discussion as necessary.
- Ask students to visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week404/cover.html and read the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly cover story, Sex Offenders on the Internet. (If students do not have Internet access, provide printed copies of the transcript.) When students have finished reading, ask them to form groups of four and engage in a discussion that explores how or if the privacy rights of sexual offenders are being violated online. Students should address the following questions, and any others that you feel are relevant, during their discussion:
- Before you read this transcript, did you feel strongly that the public should be made aware of the names and addresses of sex offenders who live nearby? Did you feel strongly against it?
- Has your opinion about whether this information should be made public changed after reading this transcript? If so, how?
- The sex offenders interviewed for this program say they feel as if they are being punished twice for their crime – once by the law, and once by their neighbors. Do you agree or disagree?
- If we grant the wish of sex offenders to have their names, addresses, and other personal information removed from the Internet, are we doing their victims a disservice? Would this be a disservice to society as a whole? Why or why not?
- Would you feel safer if you could identify the sex offenders who live in or near your neighborhood? Why or why not?
When students have finished their discussion, ask volunteers from each group to share their thoughts. Note similarities and differences in opinion, and encourage further discussion as necessary.
- Ask students to visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week506/feature.html and read the Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly feature, Civil Liberties. (If students do not have Internet access, provide printed copies of this transcript.) Then, ask them to complete a journal entry that describes how they would feel if they learned federal agents had read personal e-mail in an effort to trace the whereabouts and plans of terrorists living within the United States. Students should address the following questions, and any others you feel are relevant, as they complete their assignment:
- Overall, do you think federal agents should have the right to read personal e-mail in order to keep track of terrorists? Do you think this is a violation of personal privacy? Why or why not?
- If you were to learn that federal agents had read your personal e-mail, how would you feel? Would you feel as though your privacy had been violated, or would you feel safer knowing that such measures were being taken to enhance national security and prevent terrorist attacks?
- Do you support the US government in this effort to track terrorists? If you don’t, can you suggest other methods that might be used that won’t compromise your privacy?
When students have finished writing, ask volunteers to share their thoughts. Once several students have had an opportunity to speak, ask the rest of the class if they agree or disagree with what they’ve heard. Also, ask students if the volunteers presented perspectives that they might not have considered previously. Encourage further discussion of key points and ask questions as necessary.
- Divide students into groups of four and ask them to create a list of “Internet Rules” that might help preserve the privacy and safety of young Internet users. (”Rules” might include the following: Never share identifying information on chat boards or in blogs, keep passwords safe and don’t share them with anyone, report threatening or suggestive messages to an adult, remember that online “friends” may not be who they claim to be, etc.) When students have finished their lists, ask a volunteer from each group to share the group’s rules with the rest of the class. As students share their rules, record them on a chalk board, dry-erase board, or flip chart. Then, ask a volunteer to copy the rules neatly onto poster board or flip chart paper, adding artistic elements as they wish, and arrange to have the list displayed in the guidance office, cafeteria, tech lab, or other high-traffic area of the school.
- Does the website collect personal information without your knowledge?
- How does the website use the personal information you provide?
- Does the website share, transfer, or sell any personal information you provide to other companies without your consent?
- Will the website retain your personal information in order to send you newsletters, surveys, advertisements, or other information via e-mail?
When students have finished their investigation, ask them to write a brief report (3-5 paragraphs) of their findings. Their report should answer the following questions:
- Were you surprised by anything you read in the policy? If so, what surprised you?
- After examining this website’s policy, and thinking about the ways your personal information might be handled without your consent, will you be more careful in the future with the type of information you share on websites? Why or why not?
- When students have finished their reports, form a collaborative discussion with your students about their findings, their feelings about Internet privacy policies, and any new Internet habits they might develop as a result of this exercise.
- This lesson plan has discussed some of the risks associated with divulging information on a public chat board or blog; but these tools can also help those who are trying to locate family members or receive assistance during times of crisis. Ask students to visit http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week902/newsfeature.html and read the news feature Katrina Aftermath. Then, form a discussion with your class about some of the benefits of Internet features such as blogs and chat boards. How can teens use these tools in a positive way? How can society benefit from these features in times of need, such as a natural disaster, national emergency, or other crisis? In what ways might these features help bring assistance to those who need it? Encourage further discussion as necessary, and record key points on a chalk board, dry-erase board, or flip chart.