Today is Safer Internet Day, a day organized by a company called Insafe to promote greater awareness around being a more responsible online citizen and mobile phone user. This year marks the 10th since the inception of the holiday and gives everyone who uses computers, tablets and smartphones a good reason to stop and make sure they are working, surfing, communicating and living responsibly online.
When it comes to kids being online, Safer Internet Day takes on a whole new meaning. Studies like AAP’s “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families,” and many others have pointed to specific benefits that being social online can bring to kids, including enhanced communication, greater socialization among peers and increased sense of community. On the flipside, there are a bevy of dangers that parents need to be aware of as well, including dangerous behaviors like cyberbullying, online predators and ‘Facebook Depression.’
The best tips for creating a safer Internet environment is to get involved. Communicate. Be aware. It would be easy to just assume that kids are safe on the Internet and know what they are doing, but that viewpoint is what could easily lead kids down the wrong online path. It’s important to always be one step ahead of kids and know who they are talking to online, know who they’re friends are and always be open to discussing what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. Creating a family contract, an understanding of what behaviors online are and aren’t permitted is a good place to start. This example from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) is a great one to use.
And FOSI, in honor of today, is also offering parents, teachers and teens the opportunity to take part in its “Pledge for Good,” empowering users to create a safer and happier online community. A Pledge for Good is part of its Platform for Good campaign and challenges all users of all ages to take positive actions like offering a compliment on Twitter or sharing your knowledge online.
FOSI also provides helpful cut-out Safety Cards that parents can print out that offers an abridged version of its Family Contract when handing over a new phone, tablet, gaming system, cell phone or computer. And remember the mom whose iPhone contract to her 13-year-old son went viral recently?
A lot of companies are making a commitment to a safer Internet environment for kids, including Microsoft. In honor of its mission, the company has issued a “Safer Online Teen Challenge” to kids aged 13-18 and wants teens to stay safe online and educate peers. Kids can select a specific online safety topic and then use their creativity in a variety of ways to help spread the word. Submissions will be accepted until April 12, 2013 and the winners will receive cool Microsoft products. For more details on this challenge, please visit the website.
Keeping kids safe online is one of the many responsibilities parents have to face nowadays, in this highly digital and connected world. Although Safer Internet Day is just recognized as being today, hopefully, with the right parental involvement and monitoring, every day will be safe for your kids online.
For more tips on keeping your kids safe, check out Parenting’s complementary coverage, “13 Tips for Monitoring Kids’ Social Media.”
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