Internet safety is a huge, huge issue when it comes to the well-being of kids. Social networking, message boards, and video sharing sites have made it easier than ever for any user’s information to be shared broadly, with no real gauge of the people who have access to that information.
More often than not, the people using the internet are just parents and community members like everyone else, but that slim minority that would do harm make the internet a very real and legitimate concern for parents whose children are spending time online.
Many organizations have been founded to help raise internet safety awareness, but there’s little that can be done to change the nature of the web itself: with hundreds of new websites going live every day, and plenty of privacy laws so users are (for the most part) anonymous, the most effective place to emphasize kids’ internet safety is with kids themselves.
Kids’ internet safety is, understandably, a tricky topic for parents. After all, the internet is so expansive that it’s easy to feel that there’s no real way to keep it safe entirely. While it’s true that you can’t control the web itself, you can teach your child real and effective safety strategies to govern their behavior online.
A few key points that are useful in promoting safety-savvy kids
Not just scared, but smart:
Fear alone (e.g. “stranger danger”) is not enough to keep kids safe. This is a generation that has been raised with the internet, so connecting with anonymous users is not nearly as foreign to them as it is to adults. Instead, we need to work to promote media literacy, giving kids the tools to be not just scared, but smart. (source: SafeKids.com)
Establishing accepted boundaries such as never giving out your full name, not talking with anyone who makes you uncomfortable, not sending pictures, etc. can help kids learn where the ‘line’ is before they get there.
It’s important for parents to stay involved, and not just trust that their child will know how to handle themselves online. Keeping an open dialogue so that parents know what kids are doing online, and so that kids feel comfortable telling their parents if something seems ‘off’ is important to ensuring that kids online trust the right people (parents and teachers) not the wrong ones (strangers online).
Above all, reinforcing the points above is essential if internet safety strategies are to really be effective. Our initiatives to bring fun, yet educational, folders to students nationwide can help do exactly that. Working with community organizations and schools to provide students with internet safety themed school folders is a way to reinforce the internet safety lessons that they’re hearing in the classroom and at home.