As the world inches towards internet adoption and mobile connectivity, children are bombarded with a lot of content every time they are online, which can leave them vulnerable to fake news, cyberbullying, privacy attacks, and even scams.
Teaching children and teens online safety skills is a necessary task that can often be left until it’s too late. We must teach children in school and at home so they can safely navigate their growing world, free from worry that some “troll” or “hacker” will victimize them. So how do we build safe communities online? Here are seven ways to get you started.
1. Be careful of what and how much you post online
Talk to children about what it means to be a digital citizen and how they use technology to engage with others. A good starting point is to let them know that everything they do online is publicly available, so they must be careful about the information they share online.
Starting a conversation about internet safety with children also paves the way for them to come to you when something strange or scary happens. Clearly outline your expectations for online behavioir, and identify internet safety rules that will help protect your teens, such as not sharing email accounts and passwords. Identify age-appropriate social networking sites that are safe to use and others that are off limits.
2. Protect your privacy online
Sharing too much personal information online can lead to cyberbullying. Setting healthy boundaries for your children around tech use from day one can set them up for a lifetime of digital awareness. Tweens and teens are more vulnerable to identity theft as they think they have nothing to lose. To commit identity theft, scammers trick children into disclosing their physical address or personal details.
3. Talk about fake news and misinformation
It is good to explain the difference between good and harmful content on the internet to your children. Have regular discussions with your tweens and teens about what they do online to understand what sites they regularly use (this will give you a good starting point to understand the content they are exposed to). Ask them about the types of stories they’ve seen or shared online and if they have ever thought about whether or not they are real.
4. Teach them fact-checking tools
Children learn from their parents. If you make safe and healthy use of the internet, your child will also learn and practice it in the same manner. Teach them to question the content they consume online by asking these four questions:
- Is it current?
- Is it reliable?
- Who is the author?
- What is its purpose?
Answering these questions will help your child assess if they are consuming quality information.
5. Practise good cyber hygiene
It is also essential to teach children how to report abusive and offensive content, block people, and keep their information private. You will need to help them set up a strong password that combines uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols with not less than 12 characters, and remind your children not to connect directly to public Wi-Fi. Always use a VPN to get connected.
6. Look for signs of trouble
If you notice a child is evasive about their online activities, often hiding their screen from you, or otherwise acts out of the ordinary regarding their devices, it’s possible they could be involved in cyberbullying or other unsafe activities. If you notice warning signs, it may be time to step up your monitoring of their online behaviour.
7. Learn Internet safety with Kitso
We created our innovative WhatsApp learning bot Kitso with parents and teachers in mind to equip them with digital literacy skills so they can prepare children and teenagers for the digital world.
To conclude, start the conversation with teens and tweens and do your best. Children will see you trying, and that’s what’s important. Boundaries and structures are essential, but building safe and healthy relationships is more so. We help foster positive experiences for our children by being reliable sources of information and opening the pathway to a healthy conversation about internet use.
Packed with interactive quizzes, engaging graphics, and audio content, Kitso will captivate you throughout your journey, as you learn:
- Introduction To Your Online Presence
- Protecting Your Privacy
- Navigating False Information
- Building Your Online Community
- Digital Tools For The Classroom
- Using Digital Tools To Make A Difference
Just say hi to Kitso, our free internet safety skills WhatsApp learning bot that will aid you with valuable skills for your future!