- Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Online experiences can by positive and productive for kids. The world is an encyclopedia. Kids can learn about other geographic regions, get answers to questions and connect with others around the globe. They are using phones, tablets and computers to interact; they are playing games, chatting via social media and generally just cruising on the Internet. The Internet can boost their academics and creativity by giving them access to additional resources than what the school and community can provide. The Internet also provides additional resources for children with disabilities and special needs. They can improve their organizational skills and prepare for future growth and learning. It definitely can enhance their social skills and allow them to keep in touch with family and friends through various social media apps. And it's fun!
How can we help to keep them safe? Go back to the basics. Remember stranger danger? Don't talk to strangers? That still applies in their digitally connected world. Teach adolescents how to recognize predatory behavior like inappropriate questions or asking for personal information. Be specific by giving examples of questions that are not OK like, "Are you a boy or girl?", "Where do you live?" or "Do you want to meet?".
Cyberbullying is no different than bullying, but social media and apps make it more convenient and persistent. Recognize the warning signs if you suspect your child may be a victim. The warning can be depression, sudden changes in personality, not wanting to go to school and withdrawal from social activities. Teach kids not to bully and not to jump into the fray when they see this activity. Instruct them on the proper way to react and report this.
Parental controls can assist with setting controls and privacy for online use, but they're not fail safe. Teach kids to be responsible digital citizens. Online behaviors will follow them forever and can affect future school and job applications. The sooner they learn this, the better they will behave.
Help shape children's digital citizenship. Remind them that their activity online reflects who they are as a person. Educate them about the positive influences their online activity can have. A digitally connected environment can be enriching and fun. Enlighten the kids to the possibilities while still instilling good behaviors and risk awareness.