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Just like learning to cross the road safely and use a knife safely, children need to be taught about the dangers of using the internet and how they can keep themselves and others safe online. As with anything, children can learn better and understand more when we can make a lesson fun and interactive for them - that's why I have found some of the most engaging, child-friendly resources on internet safety for you to use with your students or your children at home.
So what do kids need to know about using the web to be able to protect themselves and stay safe online? Let's go through some of the main areas where kids can be at risk on the internet and how they can learn to keep safe:
Protecting Personal Information
Children should learn to differentiate between personal information, like their date of birth or their address, and other information about themselves, such as their hobbies or favourite colours. They then need to know that it is never safe to share personal information with anyone on the internet and that anyone who tries to find out personal details about them online could be dangerous.
Why do we use passwords? What's the difference between a weak and strong password and why is this important? These are questions children should consider and understand in order to be able to use passwords effectively to protect themselves online.
See also: What is Digital Literacy?
Many children have email accounts these days, whether they use it to keep in touch with friends and family or to help manage online accounts or schoolwork. It's important that kids know the risks and responsibilities that come with having an email account and how to responsibly use email to avoid them.
Children should have a basic understanding of how social media platforms work and learn how to post responsibly, bearing in mind that social media posts should be appropriate, never contain personal information and that they should only contain their own content and no one else's.
Kids should be aware of what cyberbully is, what form it can take and be able to recognise it and seek help if it ever happens to them or someone else. They should also remember to be kind and respectful to others at all times, just as they would in real life!
Kids should understand the basics of what an app is exactly and how to use them responsibly including asking permission before spending money in or on an app.
Parents as Internet Safety Role Models
Don't forget that nothing you tell your children about being safe online will mean anything unless they see you practising what you preach too! Kids will learn so much more about how to use the internet responsibly as well as developing a true respect for the digital world if they see the grown-ups around them using the internet safely and responsibly.
I read a fascinating book last year (The New Childhood by Jordan Shapiro) about how parents should avoid thinking of the internet and the digital world and games as negative influences that should just be suppressed and minimised, but instead how and why they should incorporate them into theirs and their children's lives for everyone's benefit.
Internet Safety Resources for Kids
Sammy's Guide to Internet Safety - a free, interactive booklet of games and quizzes about online safety from AT&T that includes all of the above aspects and works well on desktop computers or tablets. (Recommended for children 12+)
SMART with a Heart Video Lessons from Childnet International - Colourful video lessons on how to be 'SMART' online - each includes follow up challenges for kids to use what they have learned. (Also see Smartie the Penguin's story for Early Years children)
BBC Bitesize - learn from this cute video about being safe online with Pip and Declan (good for younger children)
'Be Internet Awesome' with Google - watch educational videos about online safety and play and explore in 'Interland' - learn about kindness and mindfulness online as well as data protection and phishing through this awesome game.