As a web developer focused on security and as a parent of two children, I want my kids to learn online safety and to be good digital citizens. That means learning how to stay safe online, how to use the internet responsibly, how to treat others just as well online as offline, and how to manage their digital identity. Besides the immediate benefits to my own children and family, it also helps make the world a better place.
It’s a minefield out there. New games and apps come out all the time. Children get their own tablets and smartphones at younger and younger ages, and learn how to manipulate them better than we do. Some games have chat features, some apps don’t retain a history of conversations. We read in the newspaper about children bullying other children online with severe consequences for the victim. I don’t want my children to be bullied – I also don’t want my children to be bullies.
How can we as parents teach our kids online safety and good behavior?
One of my key resources in this area is Elizabeth Milovidov at Digital Parenting Coach. She manages an online community where parents can help each other. She has also written a book called The Parent’s Guide to Parenting in the Digital Age: An Easy Reference Tool to Support and Empower Parents and Caregivers (The Digital Parent’s Toolkit Series Book 1), available on Amazon. Throughout the book, she encourages parents to not shy away from the issues. Her mantra for us is: “Don’t panic, parent!”
That means it is up to us to find out the ins and outs of what our kids are into (Minecraft? Fortnite?) and keep the lines of communication open with our children.
Some other resources for teaching children online safety:
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization. Their mission is to empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives. You can sign up for age-based ratings and reviews for apps, games, and movies. They have a blog for parents to help us stay up to date on the latest news.
The FBI has a “Safe Online Surfing” website with grade-level based games for kids with questions about online safety.
There are many other online resources for teaching digital citizenship that are aimed at teachers. But let’s not forget that we, the parents, are our children’s primary teachers. We may sometimes feel out of the loop – even those of us who work with computers every day – but with these resources and the help of other parents, we can teach our children online safety.
By the way, you don’t have to get your child a smartphone just because everyone else has one. Some parents are taking the pledge to “wait until 8th” and not give their child a smartphone before 8th grade at the earliest.
What are your top tips or websites for helping your kids learn online safety or become responsible digital citizens? Share with us in the comments!