Happy Safer Internet Day! I know, it's a new one on me, too. It's been around for 11 years, though, with the goal of promoting safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people.
The tagline for this year's event is "“Let’s create a better Internet together."
I love that mission, and I think it's one that is a great jumping off point for a family discussion.
Ask your kids what they like best about the Internet. It's certainly an amazing place with a whole lot of benefit. Share your favorite aspects as well. What do you love about social media? And don't we all wish we had Google back when we were writing junior high research papers?
While the Internet is incredible and is a great way to connect people and information, it is far from a perfect place. It is even, at times, dangerous, especially for kids.
As a parent, talking about both the good and the bad of the Internet is important. Help kids learn to think critically about the Internet generally as well as specific sites and apps.
Use yourself as an example. Share a time that you when you shared something online that you later regretted, or some other less than positive experience online. Even if your example is from Facebook and they roll their eyes, let them learn from your mistakes. (If you don't have one, let me know and I'll supply you with a few of mine.)
Or use a news story to share something less than stellar. Sadly, you don't have to look hard to find one about bullying, sexting, identify fraud or hoaxes.
Ask your kids what they would do to create a better Internet. I bet they have some interesting ideas.
Here are some other ways parents can take full advantage of Safer Internet Day:
- Spend some time having your kids show you their favorite apps and websites
It's a chance to see where they're spending their time, and why they like it. It also shows that you care and gives you a chance to see the sites in greater detail and make sure you're comfortable with them. Parents need to know what sites your children visit, what they share and download and ensure that they engage in positive digital behavior. If they are doing so, be sure to praise it to the skies.
Positive reinforcement may seem to fall on deaf ears, but it's quite possible that they're hearing you.
- Ask your kids to show you an example of something online that they felt wasn't great, be it a photo shared by an acquaintance that isn't a great representation of that individual, or a post that could have been kinder. Talk about what would have made it a better choice.
- Reiterate the need to THINK before posting online.
- Check out their social media sites and ask about their friends. If they can't tell you much about a certain individual, make sure that it is someone they know in real life.
- Keep setting boundaries. Something simple like having phones charge in your bedroom at night can make a big difference, both in terms of online behavior and also just promoting healthy sleep habits.
You can find all my posts on internet safety here.
Here's to a safer, better internet!
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