What elementary school students taught us about safety training

By Daniel Kent

Daniel is founder and president of Net Literacy, an all-volunteer, student-run nonprofit that bridges the digital divide through its digital literacy and digital inclusion initiatives. Read more about Daniel here.

High school students good at teaching young kids

It turns out that high school students make good teachers when it comes to helping younger students learn about Internet safety.

One of Net Literacy’s safety outreach programs sends high school student volunteers into elementary schools to supplement other safety training provided by the schools, teaching Internet safety to 3rd to 6th graders.

And, upon surveying students receiving  training, we found that 98% of respondents indicated that they liked high school students presenting the safety training.

Click on the image to see a short skit video created by Net Literacy student volunteers.

We surveyed 200 respondents in an elementary school immediately after the presentations. The survey was designed to provide us feedback but was not conducted using a methodology that would enable the results to provide statistically significant information.

Was the training valuable?

We answered this question by asking: “would you recommend that a friend or family member receive this training?,” and 91% of respondents said “yes” and 9% of the respondents said “no.” We use 90% as our target for determining if this was a successful safety program.

Did you learn something useful?

We asked  “did you learn something that you didn’t know before and is useful to you?,” and 90%  said “yes” while 10% of the respondents said “no.” We also use 90% as our target for determining if this was a successful safety program.

What was the most important new information that you learned?

ChartFor those respondents indicating that they learned something that they hadn’t known before and was useful to them, 32% learned new information about sharing personal information and 24% learned new information about talking to strangers online. Nine percent, 8%, and 7% of the respondents indicated the important new information learned was about password safety, viruses/spyware, and cellphone/texting safety, respectively. Six percent of the respondents said that their most important learning had to do with cyberbullying, which was a topic covered by the schools in a presentation two months earlier.


The following findings are based upon this survey:

  • There was a high degree of correlation between respondents that believed that they did not learn anything new and that did not feel as if the safety training were valuable. Of the 18 respondents indicating that they had not learned anything that was useful, 14 of the 18 (78%) respondents would not recommend the training to another friend or family member. Consequently, a review or refresher of commonly known safety information may not be sufficient to engage all young people. We will continue to design safety training programs that purposely include some information that is not common knowledge and emphasize it during the presentation (e.g., by occasionally asking for a show of hands of students that were aware of the lesser known but useful fact).
  • Short safety skit videos that reinforce material in a digital manner likely contribute to student engagement (and possibly the retention of the information discussed[2]). Since 2010, we have used professionally produced 30 second PSAs that are student-scripted and star student presenters for our television outreach partnership in our safety presentations to students. This year, we used a series of short 1-2 minute “video skits” used for our online outreach partnership that discussed a safety issue in a dramatic, comedic, or other teen-engaging way. During past years when we exclusively used PSAs, on an unaided basis, 72% to 84% of the respondents indicated that the PSAs positively impacted the presentation. This year, 93% of the respondents indicated that the “video skits” enhanced the presentation. We will use the short skits exclusively in presentations going forward.
  • Youth-led discussions about safety continue to resonate with elementary school students.[3] Student respondents continue to indicate that being taught safety by high school students that are Net savvy enhances their safety training.  This year, 98% of respondents indicated that they liked high school students presenting the safety training. During past surveys and on an unaided basis, between 89% and 96% of respondents indicated that they liked high school students presenting the materials.

Please email  danielkent(at)netliteracy.org if you would like a copy of the PowerPoint, links to the videos that were used, or have a question about the survey.


[1] Topics include net predators, cell phones/texting, user names, viruses/spyware, email/spam, passwords, talking to strangers, netiquette, webcams, social media, chatrooms, cyberbullying, sharing personal information, and responsible blogging and posting pictures.

[2] Derived from that last survey question which was open ended and asked respondents if “there was anything else that you liked or disliked about the safety presentation.”

[3] Ibid