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Learn All Year Long

Kids and teens should read and write even when they are out of school. Why is this so important?

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Help Children Play and Stay Safe Online

 

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Help Children Play and Stay Safe Online

Grades K – 6
Publisher

International Reading Association

Tip Topic Tips for Teaching With Technology
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Why Use This Tip

What to Do

 

Why Use This Tip

Children can find almost anything on the Internet. Some things, like homework help, are useful, and others, like interactive games, are fun. But some of the things children come across, whether accidentally or intentionally, are not appropriate. And they may not realize what is or isn’t a good idea to share online, an increasingly important thing for them to know in this era of social networking and with tools like cameras becoming more widely available. That’s why it’s essential to talk about Internet safety from an early age and to make sure children understand why and how to stay safe online.

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What to Do

  1. Set aside time to ask the child what he or she uses the Internet for. A younger child might say to play games or watch videos. An older child might know more about social networking sites and blogs where it is possible to leave comments and interact with other users. Knowing what the child is doing online will help you know what topics to focus on when it comes to safety.

  2. Discuss that even though the Internet is a great way to get information or stay in touch with friends, there are some adults who use the Internet with bad intentions. Some are committing crimes such as stealing. Others are targeting children, using the Internet to look for ways to talk to kids, find out where they live or go to school, and even ask to call or meet them in person. Some even pretend to be children themselves to gain a kid’s trust online. Police call these people child predators, and it’s important to know how to stay away from them online.

  3. There are sites designed specifically to help children learn about online safety. In addition to talking to children about how to stay safe online, you might spend some time together looking at one of these sites and allowing the child to complete some of the activities. For example, you might have the child play the interactive games on NetSmartz Kids or the Internet Safety game from McGruff.org.

    Use these sites as a chance to offer specific examples of how to stay safe online. For example, when the activity asks the child to choose a screen name, talk about how they should never use their real name as a nickname or share their address, phone number, birthday, school name, or location.

    You might also allow younger children to go onto a computer with a web browser that you have set up for them to use. Allow them to look at appropriate websites that you have bookmarked with an easily identifiable category (for example, “Sites for Kids”) and, while the child is using them, talk about why these sites are safe for them to use.

  4. For older children, you might visit a social networking site such as Facebook and look at the profile categories together. Use the Online Profile Tips sheet to talk about information kids can usually share safely. Talk also about the following safety tips:

    • Never agree to meet anyone you meet online in person.

    • Never share photographs of yourself over the Internet or through the mail, even if someone asks you to or shares one with you first.

    • Never respond to e-mails or text messages that frighten you or make you uncomfortable. If you get one, always tell a parent or trusted adult.

  5. For older children, particularly those in middle school, it is also a good idea to talk about the fact that the Internet is not as anonymous as they might think. For example, children often feel they can post something negative about a classmate or a teacher with no consequences. But in fact, it’s easy to trace things that people post online, and as problems increase, more and more schools are developing rules about “cyberbullying,” which punish children who are mean to others online. Teach children not to spread rumors or post anything online that they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in person.

  6. Here are some additional things to keep in mind about Internet safety:

    • No amount of warning can replace the watchful eye of an adult, so keep the computer in a common area instead of a private spot like a bedroom.

    • Share an e-mail account with the child so messages and “friends” can be monitored.

    • Use blocking software provided by your Internet service provider to restrict access to sites that are unsuitable for children, as well as chat rooms, which are known hangouts for pedophiles.

    • Disable “cookies” in your browser, which track personal information about the user.

    • Bookmark favorite sites so kids have easy access to them without having to type the name in. Sometimes misspelling a website name by even one letter can bring a child to an inappropriate page.

    • Make sure the child knows there is a trusted adult he or she can come to if something happens online that makes them feel threatened in some way.

    • You can create a Family Agreement about Internet use that gives everyone in your family guidelines about how to stay safe online.
  7. For more information about staying safe online, visit these helpful websites:

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