As a parent and someone who spends a lot of time online for my job, I know and understand the importance of teaching internet safety to our kids. In this guide, I will be sharing with you some basic lessons that should be shared with your child. In today’s world, our children are heavily dependent on technology, such as the internet, in order to communicate with others, conduct research, and even to assist them in their educational endeavors. As parents, it is inappropriate to keep this type of technology from our children as it is an integrated part of our world as a whole. This is why teaching internet safety is the responsibility that we should take.
Cyber citizenship is one of the first steps in teaching internet safety to our kids. The internet is much like a community that we live, work, and play in. Children must understand this. People may not “live” online, but it is a place where many work, and many play. You should start by defining the role of a basic community and then compare it to the concept of “Cyberspace”. While Cyberspace is actually considered an abstract idea as it relates to community, it is a community nonetheless. The places that we visit while online are much like the places that we visit in our physical community. These places include the library, various types of stores, and even museums! By comparing the “websites” that we find online to real places we find in our communities, it gives your child a sense of community.
Now, we it is important to express upon your child that all of the places that we can visit online are typically “open”, and that there are “roads” that help us get to these places much like the way that we travel to real places in the community. Children all know that they are too young to navigate themselves on roads in the real community. The adults in their lives drive them from one location to another. The same goes for the internet “Superhighway” online. It is important to have adults available to navigate children through the roads, and highways when they are online. Adult presence and assistance online is the first step to internet safety.
The next thing that you need to impress upon your children is how to get help if they get “lost” in the cyber community. In the physical community, we teach our children that if they get lost or need help to contact an adult that they feel as if they can trust, like a teacher and/or police officer. When children are in the cyber community, they must have the same rules as the physical community that they live in. If they get lost, or need help, they need to understand to call upon the assistance of an adult. Getting lost may include ending up in areas online that are inappropriate. Needing help may include situations in which other internet users make them feel uncomfortable by the actions that they engage in online, or the things that they say to your child.
Just as in the physical community, children need to be aware that they should focus on their personal safety in the cyber community. Children should understand that, even online, there are “strangers”. They should understand that strangers in the cyber community may try to do things to trick them into revealing personal information about themselves and those that they love and care about. They should be taught:
1. Children should never provide any type of personal information to people that they communicate with, or play with in the online environment. This includes information like their name, age, birthday, address, the name of their city, the name of their school, their telephone number, and similar types of information.
2. Children should never provide a picture of themselves while online. While it is important to create a sense of personalization while in a community, this can be done with avatars, and other types of pictures online.
3. Children should never agree to meet up with someone that they have met on the internet. This type of situation has resulted in the injury and deaths of several children in the world.
4. If children come across information that they feel uncomfortable with, they should be informed that it has to be reported to their parents immediately, or another trusted adults. This may include pictures, stories, websites, and any other type of information that makes them feel as if they could be sick, or feel “weird” or they consider “grown up”, or “uncool”.
5. Children should be issued rules that help them to navigate in areas that are appropriate for their age group.
If you implement the use of these strategies when teaching kids internet safety, you will find that your children will have a better understanding of the online community, the rules that govern it, and the means to stay safe while online.