Lesson Plan Guide - Identity Theft

By Matt Andrews

CONTENT AREA: Choose your path - Safety and health


2-2: Students develop awareness of their social system of support and constraints, and choose associations and behaviors that align with their values, goals and well-being.


  • Reflect upon their online identities
  • Better understand some of the potential risks and benefits of their online presence
  • Discuss their online activity with their parents


  • PS: C1.2 Learn about the relationship between rules, laws, safety, and the protection of rights of the individual
  • PS: B1.8 Know when peer pressure is influencing a decision
  • PS: C1.5 Differentiate between situations requiring peer support and situations requiring adult professional help
  • PS: A1.1 Develop positive attitudes toward self as a unique and worthy person


It is helpful for instructors to have some familiarity with Facebook and other online spaces where students spend much of their time. Research suggests that high school teachers could connect much better in the classroom if they had a better understanding of the online use of social media outside the classroom.

This is not to suggest instructors need to spend lots of time online with social media. Before the lesson, instructors could informally survey students about the websites and media they use. Instructors could put themselves in their students’ shoes to develop better knowledge of students’ interests to better connect with them in class, and also guide them through this lesson on online identities.


Student Paths article “Losing Yourself.”
Letter to parents and teens that explains online identity discussion for homework.
Optional: Internet access with computers, smart phones, and/or other technologies students use. This access is used to support the lesson, so the teacher may want to use a projector to show students examples of what is being talked about.


No specific assessment is given, but a very practical use of this lesson is to assign parents or students to use a new online communication tool that the school would like to adopt. This may include an online calendar, blog, email progress reports, and other technologies used at the school.


1) For Large Group Discussion Introduce and Define the Term “Online Identity” (10 minutes)

Ask, “If you wanted to know something about your friend and could not find them, where would you go?” Many students are likely to say they would text them or check online.

Ask: “Have you ever searched for yourself online?” Create a list of all the places a person could be found online, and refine the idea of online identities. Instructors may want to use Google to search for themselves or the school to show students how easy it is to find information.

The point of this introduction is to make it clear to all students that online media are an expression of their values to others. Many teenagers have various social media or other websites that list favorite songs, sports teams, movies and entertainment. Many posts may pose little risk for students, but most students are unaware that college admissions officers and employers search for these online identities to find out about applicants.

Encourage students to learn proper online etiquette, and accept that the content they post online may help or harm them in the real world. Recognize that students have become information creators and sources in a virtual world, rather than passive consumers of media and victims of fraud. Remind students that when an account, such as Facebook or Instagram, is open, these websites can track every page the user visits.

To transition to the next activity, ask students 3 questions:
“Where do you find high-quality information online?”
“What kind of information do you pass along to others online?”
“How do you determine how valuable a website is for you?”
This question is asked to pique curiosity and direct attention to evaluating the quality of online information.

2) Explain that the task is to rate the educational value of an article (15 minutes)

Ask students, “How could we judge the educational value of an article or website?” No specific answer needs to be reached, but encourage students to judge the worth of the article in today’s lesson.

Then ask, “How do you know whether you learn anything when you read an article?” Help students identify specific skills they use for reading comprehension and evaluating their own acquisition of knowledge. These skills include question asking, summarizing, re-reading, forecasting, and self-testing.

Remind students that they must use all these skills as students in order to learn from an article. Only after reading the article in depth will students be able to judge the educational value of the article for themselves.

Distribute Student Paths publication and find the article, “Losing Yourself,” and sidebars, “When Delete Doesn’t Cut It” and “Catfishing,” about online identity. Instruct students to read the article and sidebars to themselves. Students should identify the main idea and lesson they learned from the article.

As a class, rate the educational value of the article. Ask, “What were the primary lessons we learned by reading the article and sidebars?”

Here is a list of other questions to ask the class:

  • Do you think the author intended the lessons we learned?
  • Did the whole class understand this lesson and message?
  • What information is missing from the article?
  • What else would be helpful to know?
  • How could I find out this information and become a knowledgeable source for others?
  • Overall, was this article informative and worth reading?

The point of this activity is to help students think about the educational worth of activities in general, including a print article and websites.

3) Assign students the task of teaching their parents about online identities (5 minutes)

Begin by explaining to students that previous generations did not have the instant, online access to information that is available for teenagers today. Many parents and adults are unfamiliar with how valuable many of these online tools could be. The homework assignment for students is to teach their parents something about technology and online identities.

Distribute Handout A4 and explain the homework assignment. At home, and in person, students will talk about technology and online identities with parents and/or caring adults. Unfortunately, many parents are completely unaware of how much time their children spend online and just what their children do online.

The homework assignment is time for parents to learn about their children’s online identities. No need to snoop, just use it as an educational experience for adults and teenagers.

Identity Theft

About the Author

Matt Andrews