08/17/2012 05:50 pm ET

Table Talk: Should We Really Be Afraid Of Sharks?

Popular books and movies like "Jaws" can make sharks seem like some of the most dangerous creatures on earth. But often, these stories scare us more than they should.

In fact, Discovery News noted in 2010 that, between 1990 and 2006, more people died from digging a hole in the sand than from a shark attack. And while sharks are often perceived as threatening, humans actually pose a considerable threat to sharks as well. According to the International Shark Attack Files, there were 75 unprovoked shark attacks in 2011, 12 of which were fatal; by comparison, ocean conservation group Oceana reports that humans kill 100 million sharks a year.

Sharks are such a vital part of our environment that even some shark attack survivors are trying to save them, participating in campaigns against the killing of endangered species for shark fin soup.

People are talking more than usual about sharks right now because it’s Shark Week -- the Discovery Channel’s popular annual event devoted to shows about the ocean animals.

In honor of Shark Week, HuffPost Impact has suggested five ways to help protect sharks -- from joining the Shark Week Facebook campaign to signing a pledge in protest of the fin trade. Check them all out here.

Questions for discussion:

  • Have you ever seen a shark?
  • If shark attacks are so rare, why are people afraid of these animals?
  • What other animals or insects seem scary to you? How do they contribute to the ecosystem in a positive way?
  • How can we keep sharks safe from humans?