5 Sites to Teach Children How to Use the Internet Safely, for Kids and Parents
Today, you can’t keep children away from the internet. Sooner or later, they will have online profiles and social media accounts and will need to use the web for education and information. Of course, the online world comes with its dangers and pitfalls. So, teaching children how to use the internet safely as soon as possible is paramount.
These websites offer different ways for children, parents, and educators to learn best digital practices and good online behavior. They address basics like security, privacy, and even behavioral patterns like cyberbullying through online games, interactive storytelling, quizzes, and detailed guides.
1. Be Internet Awesome (Web): Google’s Internet Safety Program for Children
Be Internet Awesome is a revamped initiative by Google to teach children how to stay safe online, along with best practices and good behavior. It’s a package of three tools: an online game for children to play called Interland, a series of lesson plans for educators, and the “Be Internet Awesome” pledge for parents.
Interland is a free-to-play internet safety game for kids. It’s divided into four worlds, each with its objectives: Mindful Mountain (what to share and not share online), Tower of Treasure (how to protect information), Kind Kingdom (online behavior and avoiding trolls and bullying), and Reality River (how to identify fake news and scams). Different types of games within each world instill best practices in children while they try to solve puzzles or reach objectives.
The pledge for parents is a simple set of five mission statements that the whole family must promise to adhere to, a fun collective activity that helps keep everyone accountable. The curriculum is a little more involved, teaching kids the fundamentals of being smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online to ensure their safety and that of others. Each of these fundamentals comes with multiple lessons for educators to teach best practices.
Since 1995, Childnet has been one of the oldest and most widely respected charities dedicated to the online safety of children and young people. It hosts a variety of free resources and programs to teach the best online practices from an early age.
You can access the website as a child between 4-11 years old, 11-18 years old, a parent or carer, and a teacher or professional educator. You’ll find detailed articles written for that audience on how to behave in common digital scenarios like social media, gaming, video calls, online bullying, information reliability, etc. Childnet also offers a quick directory of several helplines and support systems that children can access and direct links to the child-protection service sections of several popular apps.
Over the years, Childnet has created several toolkits, videos, lesson plans, family activities, and other helpful materials. These are all collected in one place at Childnet Resources, where you can filter them by smaller age groups (3-7, 7-11, 11-14, 14-18), by subject (online sexual harassment, online grooming, parental controls, screen time, etc.), and by the type of material (activity, toolkit, presentation, story, lesson plan, video, competition).
3. Digital Matters (Web): Free Online Safety Lessons for 6-11 Year Olds
Digital Matters is a series of free interactive lessons and storytelling games for children between six and 11 years old, their parents, and educators. It was created by Internet Matters, an online child safety organization that works with several experts in the field to put together the best practices for kids online.
You’ll find lessons on privacy and security, online relationships, cyberbullying, managing online information, online reputation, health, well-being, and lifestyle. Each lesson takes roughly an hour or two to finish the whole course.
The lessons are divided into two stages: Interactive Learning and Once Upon Online. In Interactive Learning, children are taught by educators or parents about the subject matter using a printable curriculum provided by Digital Matters or through online quizzes. Next, the child is encouraged to try the Once Upon Online storytelling game, where they will be presented with realistic scenarios and have to make the best choices to stay safe online.
Digital Matters is an excellent resource for online safety lessons for 6-11 year olds. But if your child doesn’t fit this age group, Internet Matters has plenty of other free materials and resources for all age groups to learn healthy digital habits.
4. ConnectSafely (Web): Best Parent Guides and Weekly “Ask Trish” Help Section
ConnectSafely has earned a reputation for providing precise and detailed guides for parents and educators that demystify online trends and apps and help them teach children how to use online tools safely. Usually, the guides are available as a downloadable PDF, a shorter quick guide (that can be printed as a poster), and a 5-10 minute YouTube video.
The guides cover various topics that aren’t talked about often. For example, as a parent, you might not know the first thing about TikTok apart from knowing it’s a social media app that your child uses. ConnectSafely’s guide will take you from zero to hero, explaining how the app works, the potential risks for children, the best practices parents can follow, and how carers can help kids use the app healthily and responsibly. Apart from TikTok, you’ll find guides for Facebook Messenger, Roblox, Snapchat, Amazon Alexa, Discord, and even general topics like cyberbullying, teen sextortion scams, and hate speech.
Another highlight of ConnectSafely is the weekly Ask Trish column, hosted by cyberbullying and online children’s safety expert Trish Prabhu. Anyone can write to Trish seeking advice for tricky online situations. She then makes a weekly TikTok video and an accompanying article to address the topic and provides practical, positive steps.
Like ConnectSafely, Family Online Safety Initiative (FOSI) focuses on helping parents and educators guide children and students, rather than making tools directly for kids. Their Good Digital Parenting program is a much-cited toolkit of resources on how to raise young netizens.
The toolkit is available for two age groups: 6-11 years old and 12+ years old. Both share a few materials like FOSI’s seven steps of digital parenting but customize the other materials like the Family Online Safety Agreement or “teachable moments” according to the age group. Both toolkits also include a PowerPoint presentation with statistics, information, and how to use the materials.
On the main FOSI website, you’ll find several articles for parents or educators divided by topic (digital reputation, gaming, screen time) or platform (Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.) FOSI’s tools and resources page makes it easy to find these materials by filtering the topic or the type of material you want (blog plot, video, toolkit, or resource guide).
Don’t Overwhelm With Information
While these sites are excellent at teaching internet safety to children, you need to introduce them gently. There is a lot to cover regarding good online behavior, and it’s easy for children to get overwhelmed. So use these sites at their recommended pace, or draw up a schedule for your kid so that they learn and practice the advice given.
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