You know what would be great? If every day were “Safer Internet Day.” There is a lot for parents to be terrified of when it comes to the internet: online predators, cyberbullying, the prevalence of incredibly graphic and violent pornography, and so on. But complete avoidance isn’t an option if we want to teach our kids how to navigate the internet safely and wisely. So we created a holiday to help us along, and that holiday is today.
Safer Internet Day started in 2004 in Europe as an internet safety awareness campaign and is now celebrated in more than 100 countries, according to its website. It is hosted in the United States by ConnectSafely, a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security.” Here’s a little more about the holiday:
Safer Internet Day aims to create both a safer and a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. The campaign aims to reach out to children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and social workers, as well as industry, decision makers and politicians, to encourage everyone to play their part in creating a better internet.
Participate in person
PTAs and YMCAs across the country have committed to hosting events today or in the coming weeks and months in support of Safer Internet Day. Google’s Be Internet Awesome program is partnering with key organizations, including the National PTA, ConnectSafely, Scholastic and YMCA, to offer workshops and trainings for families.
Get involved online
If you can’t make it to an in-person event (or there isn’t one available in your area), you can still tune in to ConnectSafely’s livestream event today, starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time. The livestream will include sessions with leaders from Roblox, TikTok, Google, Instagram/Facebook and the National PTA.
One panel session in particular, called “Maximizing Impact: How Stakeholders Can Promote a Climate of Civility and Safety,” looked particularly interesting for parents. It aims to “convene students and experts from the tech industry, education, government and the nonprofit sector to tackle some of today’s toughest questions about technology, social media, and living in a connected world.”
That session starts 1:15 p.m. Pacific time; join in by clicking here.
Talk to your kids about it
If nothing else, having a day devoted to internet safety is the perfect excuse to talk to your kids about this topic. ConnectSafely recommends approaching the topic of digital safety and civility but avoiding any tone that makes them feel like you are interrogating or lecturing them.
If you’re not sure where to start when you’re talking with older kids, the organization offers parents some possible conversation starters:
- An ad pops up while you’re doing a search—you click on the ad—it takes you away from your original search. What do you do?
- Your child is using an app and gets a message from someone you don’t know. What do you do?
- You post a picture of a friend or classmate and they ask you to take it down. What do you do?
- You have a friend over at your house and that friend ask for the passcode/password to your family iPad/laptop. What do you do?
Remember that your kids may actually know more about Internet privacy and safety than you think because they are very likely learning some of these lessons in school.
As you talk about these topics, if they share any negative experiences with you, be sure to keep your reaction in check. You want them to feel like they can continue to talk to you about this in the future without worrying that you’ll overreact.
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