Teach your kid about the Internet before the Internet does

Recently, a parent on the home school support e-group asked us all, what do you do, what routines/products/procedures do you use to keep your kids safe online? The answers were astoundingly underwhelming.

The number one way parents were “keeping the kids safe online” was to simply limit their access to not just the internet, but computers in general. After that, several different filters were named, a fisher price computer accessory that limits access was another option for smaller kids, but only one parent mentioned teaching their kid about internet safety.

My kids are already pretty computer savvy. Up till now though, they have been content to stick to the websites I’ve given them, like NickJr.com, Starfall, and Sesame Street. But, the time has come. Geek Boy is living up to his name. He found HotWheels.com and Lego.com months ago, and he’s been noticing URLs all over. The little guy, BigBoy, likes all the racing games and Lego games, and wants to play too. What’s a Mama to do?

Teach them.

Teach them about the good and bad of the internet. Teach them how to protect themselves online. You wouldn’t send your kid into a football game without the right equipment, or without making sure he knows the rules. These are our top three, SafeKids has a more comprehensive list of rules.

Rules

  1. Never give out your password. Ever.
  2. Never ever give out personal information. This means your name, birthday, address, where you live, etc. Believe it or not, this includes your email address!
  3. If something doesn’t feel right, tell a grown-up!

There are several resources for parents, to educate ourselves so we can educate our children. CurrClick (formerly Homeschool Estore) has a great lesson book by HomeSchool Learning Network called Internet Safety. It’s a good read with lots of links to place online. I love that it explains marketing online, and teaches about how to recognize marketing traps, and avoid them. I also like the the segment on Internet Law. Parents need to stay on their toes though! While it is a great jumping off point, the Net changes at the snap of a finger. Parents need to do their own research and find how things have changed since this lesson booklet was put out in 2007. Primarily, HTML, while still used, is no longer the dominant force it once was. PHP and Flash are the new languages of choice for most web designers. Laws change constantly. The book says there are 50 Internet related laws being considered by congress. A quick search at the provided link to Thomas reveals 938. The book is definitely a good resource, but use it as a jumping off point, don’t think you are done once you’ve read it.

Internet Safety is important for our kids to learn at a young age. The state of Virginia just made Internet Safety Training mandatory for all students. The DOE website has some great tools and ideas for teaching internet safety. The Virginia Internet Safety Guidelines Resource PDF has a wealth of great information as well as links to awesome sites, such as the the PBS Internet License Test for munchkins, or the Microsoft Age-By-Age Guide to Internet Saftey. In fact, the Microsoft website has some great resources, even for family & gamer safety. The Virginia DOE site points to I-Safe, the Government funded internet safety educational resource. I-Safe is supposed to be a free online resource. While I haven’t yet tested this one myself, you can check out their I-Learn programs for yourself and see if they would be useful to you. They offer kids & teens, as well as courses for parents, and older adults, mentor programs, and law enforcement courses. The FBI has a great Parent’s Guide publication, which gives tips to help to minimize your child’s chances of become a victim online. ParentsTV.org offers articles about MySpace and Internet TV. CommonSense.com offers some good information on everything from IMs to Social Networking, to downloading to MMPOG (massive multiplayer online games).

My kids love games, especially internet games. I’ve found several Internet Safety themed game sites, including NetSmartz Kidz – which teaches kids about rules, safety, and netiquette. Media-Awareness has some fun games involving the 3 Little Pigs who learn about Net safety, Big Bad Wolves, and flaming. SafetyLand, while I have not tried it personally, looks to be a fun game about helping an Internet superhero defeat the bad guy who’s messing up Safety Land, and is run by AT&T.

We need to teach our kids these lessons before they get big enough to find Social Networking sites and chat rooms. As a parent, I want to stay informed of all the latest WEB2.0 innovations, internet jokes, etc., so that I will know what my kid is into. When they are old enough for Social networking, you can be sure that I will be their number one friend. Filters and keyloggers have their place for sure, but nothing beats an involved parent for keeping your kid safe.

3 comments on “Teach your kid about the Internet before the Internet does

  1. True, true. We started out with a little sign beside the computer with a list of rules on what was or wasn’t okay to type in a field, and then I decided that I really want to see *anything* that he’s typing or logging into. His blogger account has the automatic login option checked, as does his handipoints account, and that’s really all he needs to log in for… oh I forgot Lego.com. ;D ;D

    We do need to learn more about ads and how to recognize them. He’s very good about deconstructing ads on tv though! Hehehe

  2. I’ve started a new homeschool meme for Mondays and I thought that you might be interested. If you want to participate, just write a post about a highlight from your past week of home learning. Then, come to my blog and sign Mr. Linky.

  3. For a fun way to teach internet and social networking safety, here’s a unit that includes an instructional video and a quiz. It’s aimed at middle school and up.

    http://www.auntlee.com/safety/

    The video is a selection of silly clips supposedly posted to the MySpace pages of the famous auntlee.com puppy and some of her friends. The clips demonstrate mistakes kids can make – the clips and the quiz serve as a jumpstart to further discussions.

    Kids can take the interactive Flash version online, or you can download a .pdf document and print it as a handout. The 10 question quiz covers the topics of cyber-bullying, privacy, safety, dangers of spyware and malware, etc.

    The quiz doesn’t really focus on stranger-danger type concerns but rather gently and humorously reminds the reader that it’s possible to hurt people’s feelings, to mislead people who don’t realize you’re joking, to remember that online postings can be seen by anybody and that postings are often impossible to remove once posted.

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