It’s inherent in our nature to teach kids about physical safety. Parents, schools and the community constantly reinforce safety and security as kids grow. Before a child leaves the safety of holding their parent’s hand, they know not to talk to strangers, they’ve learned to be cautious when approaching a dog, and they’ve been taught to buckle their seat belts without thinking.
Kids today are introduced to the Internet at increasingly young ages, and it’s important to consider online safety and privacy as another core set of lessons for parents and teachers to educate children about in order to keep them safe.
Empowering Kids Through Interactive Teaching
Studies report kids start using the internet as young as 3 years old
Thankfully, there is a wealth of quality security and privacy advice online to help lead the way. So where do you start? We’ve rounded up some of the best resources on how kids are using the internet today, and how to empower children to stay safe when interacting online -- and become good digital citizens.
Most importantly -- model this behavior yourself, and have open discussions with your kids/students so they’re prepared for online interactions with both peers, and strangers. Online safety and digital citizenship are built when children are guided by their parents, guardians, educators and law enforcement.
If you are part of a school, these resources can sustain a series of classes tackling Digital Citizenship without taking the trouble of rounding up generating the content. More importantly, as a teacher and educator, it is crucial to understand the context in which kids develop these days, so that you can assure they transition into the internet knowing the responsibilities, and basic precautions one must take.
Scholastic's Keeping Kids Safe Online
Teachers and parents have trusted Scholastic as an educational reading/publishing partner generation--and keeping with the digital times, Scholastic offers a wealth of resources. Begin with sound advice on joining your kids to journey on a child’s first steps online together. Keeping Kids Safe Online explores what kids actually do online, with practical advice on how to get involved alongside your child to discover the risks, as well as the rewards, of the Internet.
Before granting more online independence to use instant messaging, chat rooms or social networking, Scholastic notes that it’s important to talk with your kids about cyberbullying, and how social interactions extend to the online world--often with even greater impact and permanence. Scholastic has another great resource to help parents. Help your child stay safe in the digital world by reading 6 Signs Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied—And What to Do About It.
For younger kids, Interland provides a fun game-based approach that teaches safe online habits. Interland is an adventure-packed online game designed to teach the fundamentals of digital safety and citizenship through hands-on practice. Children journey on a quest to “deny hackers, sink phishers, one-up cyberbullies, outsmart oversharers and become a confident explorer online.”
Google designed Interland to help prepare kids to make smart decisions online, through hands-on practice. Explore the graphical world of Google Interland (or download from the Chrome Web Store).
The National Cyber Security Alliance
The National Cyber Security Alliance is a public/private partnership leading the charge to encourage a culture of cybersecurity. The NCSA education and awareness efforts provide several great resources to empower parents and kids with the information they need to keep safe online. Start with Raising Digital Citizens for advice and resources to keep children safer and more secure online. The NCSA stresses that online safety and privacy begins with parents leading the way, and offers easy-to-learn life lessons in Tips For Parents on Raising Privacy-Savvy Kids.
With a mission to educate and empower our global digital society to use the internet safely and securely, the NCSA offers dozens of additional links and guides to further protect yourself, your family and your devices. Visit the dedicated website, Stay Safe Online.
The NetSmartz Program
NetSmartz is an online safety education program for children aged 5 to 17, created in collaboration by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). The site provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children be safer online with the goal of helping children to become more aware of potential online risks--and empowering them to help prevent victimization by making safer choices on- and offline. Explore the internet safety education activities at NetSmartz.
Online safety is important for older kids too -- as teens and their parents' concerns shift to a greater emphasis on social networking, cyberbullying, and more mature concerns like sexting. ConnectSafely.org is a nonprofit dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy, and security. It’s a great resource for older kids, with research-based safety tips and parents’ guidebooks. The site also features advice, news, and commentary that kids can relate to, covering all aspects of tech use and policy.
ConnectSafely’s help users to get the most from their technology while managing the risks. It helps decision makers craft sensible policies to guide kids, encouraging responsible use. Point your teen to https://www.connectsafely.org/.
The FTC's OnGuard Online
The Federal Trade Commission also provides citizens with a free online resource to help stay safe and secure online. Kids and parents can jump right to the videos, games and security tips. Educators will find full support for presentations, classroom activities and valuable tools to make online safety a part of any school or organization’s educational curriculum.
- Online Security Tips -- Learn how to protect your personal information and devices online and on-the-go. Watch videos to learn how to recognize common online scams, and check out 10 practical tips to help you stay a step ahead of scammers.
- For Educators & Parents -- Access classroom activity, videos to share on social media with parents in your community, or an article to use in your workplace newsletter. Check out the Net Cetera Toolkit for resources and information speakers can present for group education about kids' online safety. Explore the parent resources to help get started with your own kids.
- Videos & Games -- A full library of short videos and classic games offer an interactive way to get a step ahead of hackers and scammers. Learn to protect devices and personal information with videos and games in the OnGuard media center.
Bonus Information: TikTok
The Internet Service Providers information organization recently published an educative piece to educate parents and guardians on the new social platform that has become transversal across teens and kids: TikTok.
Understanding the risks of this viral network is key to protecting younger generations from the risks that can come from:
- Unsafe behaviors promoted by viral trends.
- Global exposure to unfiltered audiences.
- Unwanted and unsolicited data collection.
All new generations are born tech-native ever since the 2000s. It is up to those in charge of their upbringing to ensure they develop the tools and criteria they need to interact with the online world in a safe, and adequate manner.
After all, the criteria and judgment of these kids and teens are still in development. And if threats such as data mining, phishing, bullying, and scams still catch us adults with quite a couple years of experience, they’ll probably have a higher chance of success against those giving their first steps in the online world.