Your children and students surf the web. It is inevitable and inescapable. With all of the technological devices they have within their reach today, it is essential that children are taught how to surf the web safely in school and at home, and understand the dangers and deceptions of being online. Learn why and how you should talk to your children and students about surfing safely and gain some additional tips and tricks to try at home and in your classroom.
Things have changed drastically from the days you were a child and teen. Today, nearly all children subscribe to social media or have viewed a social media site like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Most children are on the computer an average of 5 hours a day for school work, enjoyment, or communication purposes. While kids enjoy reading statuses, viewing images, and posting comments on their friends or followers pages; the last thing they consider is that someone they have never met and barely know is stalking them online.
According to internet safety facts and statistics from Teens & Social Media (Pew Internet & American Life Project), 39% of teens who upload pictures limit what can be seen by outsiders most of the time, whereas 21% never restrict photo access to strangers. This is a serious issue. In fact, many children have come across sexual images or videos online that they didn’t wish to see while doing research or getting homework help, and may have even been approached online by a stranger at one time or another. Most victims are teens, but it is never too early to discuss the dangers of the internet with your elementary school children.
Now that you are aware of some of the dangers of surfing the web, you can take steps to safeguarding your children. These five steps can be implemented at home or in school and can be taught as young as Kindergarten.
Sit with your children or students and show them how to properly type in a URL address or utilize a search engine. Many parents assume today that their child knows how to visit pages or conduct a search because they have done it in school, when in fact, this is where and how students accidentally come into contact with inappropriate content.
There are numerous excellent internet site blockers that can be purchased online or in stores that will assist the process of blocking inappropriate sites and search engine topics. Nearly all school districts have safety devices already programmed into their computer systems, making it extremely difficult for mishaps to happen.
Despite excellent internet site blockers at home and in school, ads and inappropriate images sneak through from time to time. Its best to teach young children and students that if any kind of image pops up on their computer to quickly shut the lid and raise their hand for their teacher to check it out, or for a parent to examine the content at home before resuming work online.
This may seem like an obvious safety rule, but parents and teachers would be surprised at how children and teens can get sucked into the mystery of communicating with strangers. If you have not spoken to your child or students about this rule already, you need to immediately. Encourage your children at home to inform you of any unusual conversations or friend request online as soon as contact is made.
This tip is especially helpful in schools. Teachers can make a poster to hang by their computer center with a list of sites that students may visit. The sites must be visited and explored by the teacher first to ensure safety and appropriateness for their grade level. If students wish to visit another site, they must fill out a site request form and give it to their teacher. Then, after the teacher visits it and deems it appropriate for school, they can add it to the list.
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You are the boss when it comes to computer use in your home or classroom. Children and students need to play by your rules when accessing the internet. Here are some additional tips and tricks to try to continuously ensure children and student safety:
As a parent, you need to be aware of what is going on in your child’s life. Consider telling your child or teen that they are only able to utilize Facebook if they accept you as their “friend.” This way, you have direct access to their page, photographs, comments, and can question any kind of suspicious activity on their page.
While you want to completely trust your children or students, they will not always make the best choices as they grow. Consider regularly checking the history tab on the computer that they are using. Teachers may also wish to keep a sign out sheet next to the computer to be aware of who was using which computer and between which time frame in case a situation arises and a student has come across inappropriate material accidentally or on purpose.
Only allow your child to utilize technology in a shared environment, like your living room or kitchen. This will show your children that you are serious about appropriate internet use, but are also nearby in case an emergency situation arises. Also, keep your eyes peeled for code words like POS (parent over shoulder) or P911 (parent 911). These are popular messages with older children and teens and may clue you in on inappropriate conversations which should be monitored. As a parent and teacher today, you have to be aware of the risks and dangers or surfing sites and utilizing social media. Your main goal and priority is to protect your children and students, and educate them about how to properly use technology and for the right reasons. If you are open, direct, and vigilant; your children and students will acknowledge and understand the severity of inappropriate use of technology, and will be far more likely to follow your guidelines and directives.
INTERNET SAFETY FACTS & STATISTICS FROM: Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, Alexandra Rankin Macgill & Aaron Smith (2007). Teens & Social Media. Pew Internet & American Life Project.