Kids need to know how to live in a digital world responsibly and respectfully. Their technological abilities are often greater than their maturity and judgement. The internet offers them the opportunity to access appropriate and inappropriate information and content. Teach your children to bookmark their favorite sites and use safe search options on web browsers. It is important to understand that our kids will spend much of their lives where they can learn, create, communicate and connect through their digital world.
THE POWER OF WORDS
Cyberbullying, the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature, is usually associated with middle school and high school students, but sometimes even elementary children can act like bullies online. Some examples of cyberbullying include; sending a mean email or message to someone, posting rude comments about someone on a website, making fun of someone on an online chat, doing hostile things to someone's character in an online world or online video game, making fun of another player's abilities or actions in an online video game or online world, using negative or hurtful emojis and any behavior that can be seen as threatening or that could make others feel uncomfortable or scared.
Talk to your kids about online bullying, help them to think about and understand that it might be easier to say things online they would not say in person. Discuss the differences and similarities between cyberbullying and bullying in person and remind them that bullying is still hurtful even if you can't see the person. Model for your child how to compliment people and how to avoid dishonorable words or behaviors when they are writing texts or messages to a friend. Most importantly, let them know that it is important to stick up for others and report any bad behavior they see online or offline.
Use the STOP SIGN to help your child react to negative or questionable online content.
KEEP IT PRIVATE
Many websites ask for information that is private. Children need to know that private information should not be shared without a trusted adult's permission and that includes their usernames and passwords. Children may not realize that giving a friend their password for a game can also give someone access to other private accounts. Kids should never give out their name, address, school, phone number, email, pictures, or anything that could identify who they are. Also, tell your children that they will need your permission before filling out any forms online and that they should always keep their Social Security number, birth date, and full name private.
Teach your children how to create effective usernames and passwords to protect their private information. A strong user name should be unique and should keep your child anonymous. Guidelines for making strong passwords have changed over time, currently it is recommended to put together a password made of words that have meaning to your child -- pick four words you're child is likely to remember and squash them together into a single phrase.
The internet is typically the first place that young people go to begin researching a report or information on things that interest them. Students need to be aware that not all the information they find on websites can be trusted. Young children don't always understand that anyone can put information on a website whether it is true or not. Please help your child to find online resources that are high quality and reliable. The following questions can help you and your child evaluate the quality of a website:
- Who Wrote this? Look at the author's title, expertise and background.
- What is the source of the information? Does the site come from a well-known organization? Does the news source have a good reputation?
- How does this compare to other information? Look at multiple sites and compare information.
- When was the last time the site was updated? Has the site been updated recently? Make sure the information you are reading is no older than five years.
- Are advertisers targeting you? Help your child notice advertisers and teach them to ask questions about what the ads are saying.
Go, Caution, Stop! Use the Website Traffic Light
Everyone knows there is a large amount of information on the internet. However, only a small amount of the information that comes up from a basic Google search will be what your child is looking for. Quality searches can make a huge difference on the information your child will find on the internet. Teach your children how to become a smart searcher. It is a good practice for adults to search together with young kids and guide them on how to get the best results. Google is one search engine, but using a variety of search engines can provide a lot of additional information -- try, Bing, Ask, and Yahoo. Always be aware of advertisers when selecting results from your searches. Filters are a smart idea if your child is searching independently, typing innocent keywords can sometimes give result that you do not want your child to see.
Children need to learn strategies to increase the accuracy of keyword searches. Start with precise words for the best results. If they can't find the keyword they are looking for, have them try a keyword that means the same thing or is related. Add more words to narrow the search, for example, there is a big difference between "Dog" and "Dogs that work with the Police Department." When you use more words, you get fewer sites in your search results, but they are more likely to contain what your're looking for.
There are also sites for young children where they can search by using the alphabet, Enchanted Learning and NASA Picture Dictionary are two examples. These sites are picture dictionaries where children can search for pictures online by clicking on letters of the alphabet.