Cyberethics, Cybersafety, and Cybersecurity: Preservice Teacher Knowledge, Preparedness, and the Need for Teacher Education to Make a Difference

Winter, 2011

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(2), p. 82-88. Winter, 2011.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to investigate preservice teacher knowledge regarding the about cyberethics, cybersafety, and cybersecurity (C3) topics.
The study also aimed to identify what C3 topics preservice teachers report that they currently know well enough to model or teach.

The participants were 318 preservice teachers (69 males, 249 females) from a Mid-Atlantic university college of education undergraduate introductory technology integration course.
The mean age of the participants was 22 years old.
Ninety percent of the participants reported that they had owned their own computers for a mean of 3.88 years; 94% of them also said they maintain their own computers.
Twelve of the participants indicated that they have taken a computer security course.


The researchers designed the C3 Awareness and Instructional Preparedness Instrument and used it over the course of 2 years to gather data for this study.
The instrument consists of three sections, including: Background Information, C3 Knowledge, Awareness and Instructional Preparedness.

The Background Information section asked students their age, gender, student standing )freshman, sophomore, etc.), and major.

The C3 Knowledge section measured the preservice teachers’ knowledge about the following topics: virus scanning software updates, e-mail attachments, proxy servers, pop-up ads, portable data storage devices, passwords, ect'.

The Awareness and Instructional Preparedness section asked participants to rate their ability to model or teach 75 C3 topics.


Most of the preservice teachers in this study were born during or after a time of nearly ubiquitous access to Internet-capable technologies.
They have been classified by Prensky (2001) as digital natives.

However, this study reveals that the participants—the “natives”—reported that they are unaware of the clues in digital environments that can indicate threats to themselves, their students, and the environments where they work and learn.

Furthermore, the preservice teachers reported that they know little about the dangers that their students face when they are using technology in less-sheltered environments.

Therefore, it appears that knowledge of good C3 practice is not innate and is not openly passed from one person to another.
This study demonstrates the need for C3 content to be taught and modeled in preservice teacher education programs.
Moreover the need to address the lack of knowledge about C3 issues must also become part of a regular discussion in schools and public forums.

Colleges of education need to include this technical information in their curricula before helping preservice teachers integrate C3 into their teaching.
Teacher education programs must prepare their preservice teachers to model and teach C3 topics and safe computing practices so that future generations will know how to behave ethically as well as to keep themselves safe and secure online.

The results of this study have been used to guide the implementation of a learning unit into preservice teacher education, which develops preservice teacher C3 knowledge and skills before it contextualizes the C3 content for K–12 students.

Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital Natives, digital imigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.

Updated: Sep. 08, 2013