I more or less accept this question is off topic: https://cseducators.stackexchange.com/questions/461/teach-children-living-in-the-online-society

In the question's defense:

  • I asked about websites, programs and methods.
  • I certainly expect the CS teacher in my kid's school to teach her internet safety. I think it is way more important than teaching programming.
  • I admit it is a "shopping list" question, but we all know there are many shopping list questions on this site with tons of answers and upvotes.

So in my opinion, internet safety, conscious internet usage, and generally the very basic skills needed in today's online world belongs to CS education, which means it belongs on this site. Do they?

If not, then where is the limit? Teaching to efficiently search the internet is on or off topic? Virus protection? Pirating and torrents? Netiquette? Kindergarten level computer education? Or only programming questions are on topic?

We should try to define the scope a bit better, because right now this site is mostly about teaching programming - which is OK if that is the scope, but is it?


OK, CS education <> IT education. My mistake. Help me then:

Would questions related to teaching MS Office applications (e.g. Excel Pivot tables or Solver etc. or PowerQuery or MS Access) be blatantly off topic?)

EDIT 2017-06-24

OK, so now this question is on topic?

While giving an introduction to the Internet, should I talk about the risks?

We really need to decide what this site is about.

  • $\begingroup$ There is a question there, but I can't find it... $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanHoulihane OK, added a question in bold. :) That is the main question of the post. $\endgroup$
    – vacip
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I answered completely the wrong thing... $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanHoulihane No, you did answer the right thing. There was a serious language-based misunderstanding in my head. What Computer Science translates to in Hungarian covers both IT and CS, so I wrongly assumed this site was about both. $\endgroup$
    – vacip
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ Not really language, since it was the same in the UK in the past. We have labels to permit experts to differentiate, but those don't travel well. I don't think we have yet defined the edge of this site in that axis. $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ You may want to ask a new question on meta, because this one has answers which are very specific to the initial question. $\endgroup$
    – thesecretmaster Mod
    Jun 24, 2017 at 13:26

5 Answers 5


I wouldn't consider internet safety a Computer Science topic. Computer science is generally regarded as:

the science that deals with the theory and methods of processing information in digital computers, the design of computer hardware and software, and the applications of computers.

In the UK, at least, internet safety would certainly not be a Computer Science topic. Likely, it would be a part of an IT lesson, which deals with the general usage of computers. IT generally teaches the 'working skills' you need to use computers effectively, whereas a Computer Science lesson would handle the theoretical aspects of controlling, manipulating and designing a computer. For example, in an IT lesson, you could expect to be taught spreadsheet usage, email usage and etiquette, etc.

The skills to answer your question would probably not be relevant to a Computer Science educator; not every activity which involves a computer is Computer Science.

I think that you could probably generalise like so: if the subject of your question isn't on-topic at Computer Science (or is a related programming topic), it would probably not be on-topic here.

Teaching children how to Google is already answered at the Parenting site; your question could potentially be answered from a different perspective there. I do recognise, though, that the Parenting site probably approaches the question from a different angle to the one you're interested in; I just don't feel that your question is actually a topic of Computer Science, rather than just usage of a computer.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Similarly, although I was taught reproductive biology in GCSE biology, times have moved on and now 'interpersonal relationships' are taught with a much wider scope (e.g. bullying included) in PHSE classes which have a very different place in the curriculum. $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanHoulihane That's a very good point, and it looks like the ICO provide lesson plans for PSHE on Internet Safety, so seems like it'd be more suited to go in a PSHE lesson than a CS or IT lesson. $\endgroup$
    – Aurora0001
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ OK, that was my mistake. We don't have separate IT and CS classes in schools where I live, everything is taught under the same name. So this site is CS only. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – vacip
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I know someone teaching PHSE, need to review her content for security before next year... $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:20

If topics that are included in the CSTA standards or the Computer Science standards adopted at state levels (and many states are writing their own CS standards) are off-topic here then I feel you will not get participation from educators at the K-5 or K-8 levels. If we want to broaden participation and include educators below the high school level, then I think we need to include topics that are part of accepted standards for Computer Science be they from the UK or CSTA or a specific state.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In just 2 weeks since I wrote my answer, I've been moving slowly but surely more towards this way of thinking. I think this is right. If we want to engage with lower-grade educators, then their concerns must be within our scope. Otherwise, they will (quite rightly) not come here. $\endgroup$
    – Ben I. Mod
    Jun 21, 2017 at 10:43

While teaching computer skills can be very valuable, I don't see it as an expression of computer science.

According to Wikipedia:

Computer science is the study of the theory, experimentation, and engineering that form the basis for the design and use of computers. It is the scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications and the systematic study of the feasibility, structure, expression, and mechanization of the methodical procedures (or algorithms) that underlie the acquisition, representation, processing, storage, communication of, and access to information. An alternate, more succinct definition of computer science is the study of automating algorithmic processes that scale. A computer scientist specializes in the theory of computation and the design of computational systems.

While there are questions that we can address within, say, the kindergarten sphere ("What are boardgames appropriate for 6 year olds that teach rudimentary skills for programmers" would be analagous to language-choice), learning to use a mouse or not talk to strangers, though valuable in their own right, are just not computer science questions.


I'm actually going to dissent a little here. I do think the question needs refinement to gain specificity. However, consider the seven "Big Ideas" of the AP Computer Science Principles curriculum:

  • Creativity

  • Abstraction

  • Data and Information

  • Algorithms

  • Programming

  • The Internet

  • Global Impact

It seems that the way this discussion is going, some elements of the AP curriculum would seem off-topic. Contextualizing a question as part of AP CSP may make a difference, but the point remains that the Principles class does include within its scope topics such as Internet safety. It may be a small part of the course, but it is certainly there. The last item is certainly divergent from aforementioned definitions.

Additionally, both ISTE and CSTA have K-12 standards. Have a look at what CSTA has designed here, especially for the younger grades. Would a teacher who finds his or her way here and asks about teaching password security to a first grader be off topic when that is indeed an explicit standard of computer science according to CSTA?

I see the danger in casting too wide a net, but we may also need to consider that CS in its growing presence throughout the curriculum (especially in the US from where I am drawing these standards) looks very different in the primary grades than it does at a university. That fact alone though should not make a question off topic if does not match more complex work.


I propose that the teaching of using tools which do not relate to generating code, developing prototypes, or other tasks specific to a computing related career should be off topic.

That would make these examples off-topic:

  • use of computers to facilitate education in other subjects
  • general technology awareness (do not reply-all, etc) since this must be pushed out into a wider domain and not thought of as specialist knowledge
  • use of web development engines etc (as opposed to teaching of web design using those engines)
  • Teaching of social media marketing etc (i.e. how to take best advantage of resources), search engine optimisation, etc.
  • teaching of how to perform basic tasks on a phone (or other compute device) including use of email, word processors, spreadsheets, 3D-design tools, animation and video editing, etc.
  • $\begingroup$ While I accept your opinion, I strongly disagree. I think CS education is not exclusively programming education. Teaching MS Office for example should be on topic, as well as internet safety. Basically everything that belongs in elementary school computer class belongs here. $\endgroup$
    – vacip
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ we should break out each of these points somewhere... $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ Nah, it was my mistake. IT and CS are two separate things, now I understand. But does this mean MS Office teaching related questions are off-topic too? (I might have ended up in the wrong universe, damn!) $\endgroup$
    – vacip
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ @vacip If MS-office is on-topic, why not blender? Why not google-docs? In my day, we had to write our own word-processors (in PICK basic), without any classes... $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2017 at 10:29

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