Reflections on Integrating the Internet Safely and Ethically

Using the Internet has become a large part of my life.  I don’t know what I would do without it and I often wonder how we survived 20 years ago.  Today, I use the Internet for many things such as researching, shopping, communicating, publishing, watching videos, listening to music, looking for artwork, and blogging.  I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet.  I like the idea of not being forced to trek across campus to the library. Don't get me wrong, the library is an excellent place to find and retrieve academic resources but I can do most of my research in the comfort of my own space.  Searching the Internet can cause me to lose track of time only to realize I have lost half of the day.  Sure, it is a great feeling to find a bargain online but in order to find the best deal; I will spend hours searching only to realize that the first site I visited was the best deal to begin with.  

When I started using the Internet, I was not fully aware of Web safety and validity.  I truly believed that if a site looked respectable, the information was probably true and/or secure.   It took me a few years using the Internet for educational purposes to learn and hear about many of the deceptive practices.  Engaging in class dialog, reading articles, talking to friends and listening to the media about Internet safety is what finally made me conscious of safety practices.  The first piece of knowledge I learned in determining if a site was creditable was to look at the URL.  The name of the page, folder, domain, and name of the server can provide many clues into the legitimacy of the Web site (Schrock, as cited in Mills, 2006).    The second valuable lesson I learned was to buy items from a secured site.  I can remember when I bought my first item on eBay and was terrified that the seller would receive my payment and not send the item.  After extensive investigation, I found that eBay has specific guidelines, procedures and protection for both the buyer and seller.  The third lesson was learning how to evaluate a Web site for validity.  One valuable resource I discovered and implement in my searches is the 5 W’s for evaluating Web pages.  According to Schrock (1998), a person can evaluate the validity of a Web site by asking the following questions:

1.    Who is the author of the Web site and are they an expert in the subject matter?

2.    What is the purpose of the site according to the author?

3.    When was the site created and last updated?

4.    Where does the information come from?

5.    Why is the information useful for me?

When I was a public school educator, the school system I worked for had a very strict acceptable use policy for district-provided access to electronic information, services, and networks for students.  In order for students to gain access to the Internet, students and parents had to sign a student agreement & parent/guardian permission form.  The form outlined acceptable uses, rules of online behavior, access privileges and consequences for violations.  In addition, use of electronic media was under the school system’s inspection and a filter system was used to deflect specific Internet content.  Despite the fact that students had access to the Internet and I was responsible for supervising the class, the handbook also placed responsibility on the parents.  The policy stated, “…parents and guardians of minors are responsible for setting and conveying the standards their children should follow when using media and information sources”.  The handbook also states the following, “Outside of school, families bear responsibility for the same guidance of Internet use as they exercise with information sources such as television, telephones, radio, movies, and other possibly offensive media (Shelby County Schools, p. 22)”.   For the most part, making sure everyone returned the permission form was a hassle but it was necessary to ensure and uphold school policy.  Honestly, I did not have a choice if I liked the was better than being sued.  Overall, I liked the school policy, permission form, and parental responsibility.  It was necessary to implement a protection plan for the teachers and the school.

As part of the school policy, it was also my responsibility to go over my rules, procedures and consequences for Internet searches and projects.  I knew as a teacher that I could not see all 20+ computers being used at the same time.  In order to prevent possible problems, I provided the students with a pre-made list of reliable and safe sites.  With the use of the list, I was able to check the student’s research status and determine if he/she was on one of the approved sites.  If a student violated a rule, such as an unapproved site, they would have to face the consequence for the specific violation.

Based on the school system’s policy and my rules and procedures for Internet use, I provided safety practices for my students.  In a way, I may have been overly cautious.  One thing I have to reconsider as a teacher is my approved site list.  Given the opportunity to make a change, I would allow the students to use metasearch engines such as Ixquick, Dogpile, and Vivismo to locate valuable sites.  According to Mills (2006), metasearch engines find and retrieve multiple search engines and data sources and provide useful results.  Greater access to information can give my students more options which would expose the students to additional research and knowledge.  

Standards of ethics play a large role when using the Internet.  As a teacher, I had to be aware of the information my students receive and use.  At the beginning of each online project, the students and I would go over the rules and procedures for the Internet as well as plagiarism and copyright guidelines.  We would discuss why it is inappropriate to steal someone’s work and the proper method to reference sources.  Since I created a site list, I was able to know what was plagiarized or taken without permission.  If I were to allow my students to use metasearches and/or publish work on the Web, I would use the Educational Multimedia Guidelines.  When working on a course project, these guidelines will assist the students with use of copyrighted materials.  Various types of media can be used as long as they stay within the parameters of the guidelines.  Examples include, but limited to, the following:

·         Film or Video: Up to 10% of the motion media or three minutes (the less of the two)

·         Text:  Up to 10% of the text or 1,000 words (the less of the two)

·         Music, Lyrics, and Music Video:  Up to 10% of the work but 30 seconds or less from one piece of work.

·         Illustrations or Photographs:  5 or less artist or photographer images and no more than 10% or 15 images (the less of the two) from an artist’s collection (University of Maryland University College, n.d.).

Teaching students to respect copyrights and intellectual property as well as maintain safety and ethics for student use of Internet information is an important issue that must be addressed in the classroom.  In the future, I will implement safety tips, educational multimedia guidelines, and Web site evaluations.  As the teacher, I must be aware of what my students are doing on the Internet, making sure they do not give out identifying information and ensure proper rules and guidelines are in place for Internet use.


Mills, S. C. (2006).  Using the internet for active teaching and learning.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Person Merrill Prentice Hall.

Schrock, K. (1998).  5 W’s for evaluating web sites.  Retrieved June 24, 2008 from 

Shelby County Schools (2007).  Student handbook.  Retrieved June 24, 2008 from

University of Maryland University College (nd).  Copyright and fair use in the classroom, on the internet, and the world wide web.  Retrieved June 24, 2008 from