Posted by Carolyn Van

8 Web Safety Tips for Kids and Youth

Our youth programs aim to encourage our next generation of wave makers to feel comfortable, confident and competent with technology. We want to empower them to use it to shape the future through art, inventions, games, stories – and beyond.

We can thank the internet for allowing us to connect with one another (hello there!), access information effectively and efficiently and give us access to all of the incredible learning tools we use in our programs. However, the internet can sometimes seem like the wild wild west. Technology is becoming more complex, more intelligent and will increasingly become a more prominent part of our every day lives.

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That said, with great power comes great responsibility. As we teach youth across Canada to code and equip educators with the tools to introduce code to their students, through Teachers Learning Code – we figured we’d offer some tips to help you guide the youth in your life through their journey with the beautiful world wide web, safely and soundly:

  1. Many of the amazing educational web applications out there require youth to create online accounts. Younger youth should share their passwords with their parents/guardians. Parents/guardians should keep a promise with their children that access to their accounts will only be made in the event of a problem.
  2. When creating passwords, make one up that is hard for someone else to guess but easy for your little one(s) in your life to remember. Have them promise to never share it with anyone else (except for you or a trusted adult) – not even their best friend.
  3. While often quite capable at using computers, i.e. following commands, using the mouse, and playing online games and apps, five- to seven-year-old children are highly dependent on adults or older children to help them find games, videos and websites, interpret online information or communicate with others. Create a personalized online environment at home for children in this age group by “bookmarking” a list of acceptable sites. Include an array for games, video content and educational resources and tools. Some of our favourites include Scratch, EraseAllKittens.com and Made With Code.
  4. Protect your children from offensive “pop-ups” by setting your browser to block popups, disabling Java on your computer and/or using blocking software. Ad blockers such as AdBlock can also keep kids from seeing banner ads with inappropriate content.
  5. If your child wants an email account, consider creating a shared family email account as opposed to letting them have accounts of their own.
  6. Encourage your kids to come to you if they encounter anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Remember to stay calm. If you “freak out” they won’t turn to you for help when they need it.
  7. Have your kids use an online nickname if a website encourages them to submit their names to “personalize” the web content.
  8. Balance your child’s screen-time with offline activities. There are many fun off-line tools and games that also teach computational thinking. Some of our favourites include Robot Turtles and Littlecodr cards.

Kids have a tremendous amount of trust in their parents/guardians

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While, kids and teens are part of other communities to learn about technology – school, camps and their peers, they still see parents as a valuable resource for learning about the internet. Nearly half say they have learned about issues such as cyberbullying, online safety and privacy in the home. But a worrying number of students are self-taught using internet resources or haven’t learned about these topics from any source, which only means there is still much to teach them in our homes and schools. Have all family members act as role models for children’s use of the Internet.

Feel free to share these tips and the links below to the parents, guardians and educators in your life. Practice safe web and happy coding!

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Special thanks to TELUS WISE for being an incredible resource for engaging with technology safely. Check out their useful resource for parents/guardians on helping kids navigate their wired world and their series of webisodes that are great for tweens and teens on cyberbullying, identity theft and sharing intimate images.