Safer Internet Day is celebrated in various ways worldwide in the month of February. Led by Connect Safely, in the US, February 8th is a day dedicated to education and raising awareness around creating a safer, kinder, and more inclusive internet experience for all. However, no matter the country, the ultimate goal is for everyone using the internet to feel empowered to use this incredible technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.
As a Parent, What Can You Do for Safer Internet Day?
Your guidance and influence on your children has a significant and long-lasting impact on their attitudes and use of the internet. This is most often seen with younger children as they begin to play online games such as Roblox, or in their interactions via comments on YouTube videos. It’s crucial to teach children good internet etiquette from an early age, as they will have an online presence from a much, much earlier age than we did – and it can come back to haunt them in a big way if they’re not careful. With COVID-19 creating new challenges and pressures, it’s harder than ever to set clear boundaries and be proactive about your children’s online activities.
When children first begin playing games that are multiplayer and online, be sure to stay nearby. You’ll want to emphasize good sportsmanship in online play just as much as you would with physical games such as little league sports. Emphasize things such as The Golden Rule – treat others how you would want to be treated, especially online. This is tough when many online game communities can be quite toxic!
Online gaming can often be where children are groomed for online enticement, so extra caution and awareness around your children’s online gaming is highly warranted. You may want to set rules on when and where your children have access to devices or apps, or install parental control software on their devices. The younger the child, the more you should be able to observe or be near when they are gaming so you can intervene if things become toxic.
Online Comments and Messaging
In online communities, such as video comments or messaging platforms, it’s important to teach your children about tone and privacy. The biggest lesson for them to take away is that nothing online is truly private, and to keep important information to themselves. Information such as your home address, phone numbers, social security information, and bank details (especially credit cards!) should always be private.
Try to emphasize that even messages sent online between your child and their friends can potentially be misconstrued, and to have a measure of caution about what they say or how they say it. Not everyone will read their message the way they do!
Additionally, you can’t always delete something once you’ve hit send. It can be hard to convey the future impact of employers or college admissions officers seeing a questionable post, but your child may respond better to realizing that their friends or family may see what they say and think differently of them.
Get Involved Even If You’re Not A Parent
Making the internet a safer place for all doesn’t fall just on parents – it’s everyone’s responsibility. Practice the same good etiquette that others are trying to teach their children. Simple actions such as kind language and good sportsmanship in online games can help model the type of behavior we want to see in new internet users.
It’s also important to be a good online “neighbor” by keeping an eye out for potentially problematic behavior, such as grooming, and reporting it to the appropriate authorities.
Above all, make the effort to practice good internet etiquette yourself. You never know who someone is online, and the person you’re speaking to may be a child who doesn’t know better and could learn from your example.
Find out more and get involved by visiting saferinternetday.us, created by Connect Safely.