Equipping your child to navigate the internet safely in our technology-rich world.
By Arlie Martin, Inquiry & Digital Design
With the rise of the internet and mobile devices, digital citizenship is becoming a central factor in the development and well-being of students. Since our students have grown up in this technology-rich world, we often take for granted that students do not innately know the best ways to use them. Much like developing quality citizens, building students up to be quality digital citizens means teaching them about screen time management, online security, empathy and cyberbullying.
First and foremost, children should have clear guidelines for online safety. Any passwords for apps and sites should be shared only with parents. Location services should always be turned off unless necessary. Chat features should be turned off or set to private to avoid getting messages from unknown users. If they do get messages from an unknown user, they should know how to report it to the site or get an adult for help. Children should also be aware of cyberbullying and how to report inappropriate comments, messages, or images both to adults and to the app or site it is happening on. Check out Google's Be Internet Awesome Family Guide for more suggestions for best digital citizenship practices at home.
Because students have easy access to technology, they need to know how to regulate their use and set safe boundaries. Many parents use a variety of parental control apps and features to help their children stay within these boundaries—suggestions for which can be found on the parental control slide here—but children should also be included in the conversation. If your child is not engaging in a common online activity with you, then they are likely engaging in these activities with others. By bringing your child into the conversation, they are better able to advocate for themselves and stand up to peer pressures when faced with unsafe online activities.
Social media continues to be an area of concern for many parents. While social media has the ability to connect users, share amazing content, and give users a louder voice than ever before, it can also be an unsafe arena for children. Most social media apps and sites require their users to be thirteen years of age or older in order to have an account. Others state that any user under eighteen should have parental permission to be active on the app. With these stipulations, social media sites are not obligated to be child-friendly and any child should be aware of their rights and responsibilities while using them. NetRef's Digital Citizenship Pledge covers online safety from protecting passwords to leaving digital footprints. Check-in regularly and allow your child to express their opinions and concerns without judgment. If they don't feel heard, they will be less likely to share.
Screen time is another issue concerning many parents. However, not all screen time is equal. Positive screen time is when a device is used for creativity, collaboration, or education. Technology allows children access to more knowledge and creative expression than ever before. Apps and sites like Code.org, Scratch/Scratch Jr., Storybird, ABCya, Minecraft, and other websites and apps that engage student creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The screen time parents should be aware of and take specific actions to limit both for physical and mental health is when a device is used only to consume media content such as videos or basic games. Apps like Netflix, Youtube, Viu, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, online games and other media sites should be limited.
To create a positive relationship between your child's device usage and the family, it's a good idea to develop a family device contract. This contract should be decided on together as a family so that all members have buy-in and are aware of expectations. Device time, online activities, and security should be decided upon. To get started, check out Google's online digital citizenship game Interland.
For more tips and examples, please see these slides from our Screenagers ICS Presentations Slides