male child sitting at a table with an open laptop, the laptop faces us and the boy's back is to the camera.  Teach children to safely use the internet

photo taken by Marion May

Thirty years ago, most families shared just one telephone line and parents could look outside to see who their children were playing with. Of course we love to find activities beyond the screen for our children, but for when they do have screentime, we need to know how to teach internet safety.

Today, almost everyone owns a cellphone with a camera and it isn’t so simple for parents to see who their children are gaming, chatting and sharing with online. The good news is, younger children do listen to their parents and teachers’ online safety instructions*. (*This finding is from a study conducted by MediaSmarts©, a Canadian, Ottawa-based, non-profit centre dedicated to teaching digital media literacy (*Young Canadians in a Wireless World).)

It’s important to supervise kids closely when they’re young, but as they get older we have to teach them the skills they need to manage the risks of being engaged online,” says Mathew Johnson, Director of Education for MediaSmarts©.

Gauge your child’s curiosity and critical thinking skills

As with any teaching method, parents and teachers should approach kids according to their age, how curious they are, if they know who to trust and how refined their critical thinking skills are. MediaSmarts© has developed Internet Safety Tip Sheets (https://mediasmarts.ca/teacher-resources/find-lesson) to help parents and teachers do this.

Starting a new online activity doesn’t have to mean opening the floodgates, says Johnson. For instance, when my older son wanted to start playing multiplayer games with his friends, we had him turn off the in-game chat and use a separate app to talk just to the people he already knew in person.

Set parameters and time limits for online activities

When asked about Internet safety tips for kids, senior software executive and father of two, Rus Miller says these tips come to mind:

  • enable safe search on all your devices’ browser search pages
  • set kids social profiles to only accept message from friends
  • only accept friend requests from real people you and your kids know well
  • reach agreements about how often the child’s social profiles, settings and search history can be reviewedset consequences if the agreement is defied
  • set daily and weekly time online limits (including phone time),
  • agree not to post pictures of themselves, friends, family or minors without consent, and
  • agree that any sites or apps the children do join, must allow their parents to friend/follow them until they are 16.

“When it comes to online gaming and chatting (even Roblox© and Minecraft©),” Miller adds, “parents must be able to monitor, and limit who their kids chat with to real, known friends and using settings that disable unknown people from messaging the child ALTOGETHER.”

Make sure your kids can turn to you when they need help

No matter how old your kids are,concludes Johnson, “they still need your support sometimes, so make sure they know they can always come to you if they have a problem online.

Links mentioned in this article, and others, you may want to explore further:

 


Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog. Marion was a reading and spelling tutor for seven years for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.

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