Dec. 14-15th

posted Dec 10, 2015, 7:32 AM by Mike Costello   [ updated Dec 14, 2015, 8:47 AM ]
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Internet Privacy and Security Activity: Keeping It Real (Secret): Creating Strong Passwords and Avoiding Tricks

Instructions for You – 70” – Step 9 Partners or Small Teams

Objective: Students have a sense that digital information is not private, but managing personal information on the world wide wacky web is not nearly as totes obvi as students might think. In this activity, students get a crash course on all the basics (and a few not-so-basics) about keeping their private info under wraps. After all, friends don't let friends e-cruise confused. Students learn how to create strong account passwords, avoid malware, manage their browser history, and check for secure sites. Students will develop their own list of policies to stay safe and secure online.

Materials Needed: 

  • Computers with Internet access
  • Computer headphones for watching online videos (optional)

Step 1 (5 mins): Remind students that the first and most important gatekeepers to their personal information online are passwords. Students control their own passwords and so have the power to create a strong wall of protection around their personal information.

Students: Watch the "Passwords 101" video on YouTube and answer the following questions:

  1. What are some examples of bad passwords? Are any of your personal passwords weak like these?
  2. Why are these passwords unsafe? Why are they easy to hack? 
  3. Based on this video, do you think any of your personal passwords are strong?

Step 2 (5 mins): After watching the video, CLASS DISCUSSION of what NOT to do when creating a password.






Now move on to brainstorming the characteristics of good passwords. Possible answers:






Step 3 (5 mins): Discuss ways to protect their passwords from others. Possible answers:

  • Don't ever write down your password.
  • Never ever ever text or email your password, since then anyone who breaks into your phone or laptop can steal your password.
  • Don't tell anyone your password. 
  • Variety is the spice of life: don't use the same password for everything
  • Don't let public computers remember your passwords or usernames. (We're not suggesting your local librarian is an identity thief, but you have to be careful.)

Step 4 (5 mins): Students, use the criteria you came up with for good and bad passwords to create a list of 5-10 bad (or weak) passwords, ones that are easy to guess. Students do this activity in your own GoogleDoc, you can work alone, or in partners. Then each student comes up with one good password that he/she keeps private. 









Sample tip: One great idea for creating a really hard-to-guess password is to use the first letters from the words of a line from your favorite song. For example, take Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." The line "I'm beautiful in my way" would give you "IBIMW" and then you can combine that with other numbers, letters, and symbols. Just make sure you can remember your own password – and that you're not humming your favorite song at your desk all day. Hummers, beware. Now you try using this to create a good password: what would your secret tune be?

Step 5 (5 mins): Time for the moment of truth. Direct students to the Password Meter site to test how tough their passwords are. If their passwords are weak, they should keep trying new possibilities until they settle on a good one.

Remind students to not share the wealth of their private info, because anyone can use it to steal from them, impersonate them, or even worse. Dun dun dun. And no, we're not being drama queens here.

Step 6 (5 mins): Remind students that they should always sign out and/or log off when they leave a computer or email program.


Step 7 (5 mins): Explain to students that even if they're super careful with their passwords, there are always viruses lurking in the background that can compromise their online security.

Sample explanation: Viruses and other evil computer problems are called by a million dollar word: malware. Anyone have any idea what mal means? [Students may know that "mal" means bad in Spanish and a lot of other languages too.] That's right, viruses are bad news. If they sneak into your computer, they use and abuse your files and information. They can delete your diary entries and even software, which then costs money to replace. They can also steal all that personal information that you've worked so hard to keep private.

Watch: Viruses, Worms and Trojans…Oh my! an animated video on YouTube that explains how these cyber bad guys work. Afterwards, answer the following questions:

  1. What is malware, and what can malware be used to do? 
  2. How do Trojans trick users into downloading them? Do you think you've ever come across a Trojan?
  3. What's the scariest thing you learned about malware from this video?

Step 8 (5-10 mins): Class discussion about some ways to avoid malware.

Come up with at least 5 tips

Step 9 (15-20 mins): Students show off what they've learned by creating a Top 10 (or more) list of their own policies for staying safe and secure online. Students should use their own words for this and yes, Internet slang and abbreves are more than okay.

Step 10 (Costello)

Insert an Image as a Drawing and create your own

“Safe Password Meme”

Standards Met

  • Common Core Standards: ELA 6-8th Grade Standards: Reading 1; Reading for Informational Text 1, 4; Writing 2d, 3d, 8; Speaking and Listening 1bcd, 2.
  • 21st Century Skills: Information, Media, and Technology Skills: Access and Evaluate Information, Use and Manage Information, Apply Technology Effectively; Life and Career Skills: Interact Effectively with Others, Work Effectively in Diverse Teams.

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