Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign and I was hosted by Google and #WeAllGrow Latina Network to experience the Be Internet Awesome / Se Genial en Internet program and get pointers on how to stay safe online firsthand but all opinions are my own.
Trying to teach your kids to be internet awesome and stay safe online? Are you amazed by how tech savvy and online in tune your children are? I am. I didn’t use the Internet until the late 90’s when I was in college. In fact, the word processor (for you people too young to remember it was a really fancy, digital typewriter) that I owned had to be pried from my hands and I went kicking and screaming. My then tech-savvy boyfriend, now husband of 20 years, chided me for holding on to such an antiquated and outdated piece of machinery. Hey, it did the job of typing up my college papers and that was all I needed. Or was it?
I mean, I had no idea the scope of what the Internet could be. I definitely had no idea how to be internet awesome or safe. The internet was all new when I was in college. I existed before social media and the internet. Nobody was Googling me before an interview.
Now, I could not survive without being able to Google everything. Like what actor played in that movie that we saw last week who played in that other movie? You know the one. Or being able to Google the passage in the Lord of the Flies that reminds me of that other book? You know the one. Or what was the name of that restaurant that we ate at in the little city when we took our road trip that one year? The one with the weird foods but the really cool assortment of craft beers. This makes me realize how dependent we’ve become on the internet and how it became a necessity in our daily lives.
I Google everything and everyone. Google everyone, how scary is that? Most people Google you now before they even meet you. Our children live in a time where very little is private, most relationships begin online and they are slowly forgetting how to interact face to face. The thing is while I am wowed by evolution, I sometimes feel like maybe we’ve gone socially backward while thrusting ourselves technologically forward. This is what scares me.
READ ALSO: Protecting Your Privacy Online
I know to be wary. I went to college before social media. And while I live and thrive in social media now, I am forever grateful that it did not exist when I was a teenager. I did enough ridiculous things that I wish I could forget. Things I would never want to be living forever on the Internet. When I think of what could have ended up online, I cringe. This makes me really want to protect my children from the Internet and themselves. But how do I do it?
How do I teach my kids to be internet awesome and stay safe online?
Yes, there are many ways to put parental restrictions on the Internet and you can try to limit your child’s exposure but the fact of the matter is that you can’t keep them in that internet bubble forever. The best thing that we can do for our children is to teach them to use the internet responsibly. We won’t be there forever so we need to teach them to make good choices. Respect themselves. Respect others and to have a healthy distrust in people that they have never met in person because a person behind a screen can pretend to be anyone and people aren’t always who they pretend to be online, or in person for that matter. It’s basically like teaching them about sex, drugs and alcohol. The internet can be an amazing place but it can also be that dangerous in the hands of unsuspecting, naive children.
When our children are young, we do our best to help them get the most out of the internet while protecting them from the risks and downsides of the online world. As children mature into the tween and teen years, our roles shift from helping them learn to make their own safe and thoughtful decisions as they begin to navigate their digital lives.
Google believes in partnering with teachers and parents to prepare students to be internet awesome:
Think critically and evaluate websites, email and other content online.
Protect themselves from online threats, including bullying and scams.
Get smart about sharing: what, when, how, and with whom.
Be kind and respectful toward other people online, including respecting their privacy.
Ask for help with tricky situation from a parent or other trusted adult.
To aid parents in this new milestone, this year, Google has developed a multifaceted program, Be Internet Awesome/ Se Genial En Internet designed to teach kids the skills they need to be safe and smart online. This FREE digital citizenship and online safety program are available to everyone.
READ ALSO: Cyber Fan or Cyberstalker and how to know the difference
One of the resources, Interland, is a browser-based game that makes learning these skills interactive and fun – just like the Internet itself. Developed by Google in partnership with educators, researchers, and online-safety experts at iKeepSafe.org, Be Internet Awesome/ Se Genial En Internet provides fun, age-appropriate learning experiences built around five foundational lessons:
- Share with Care | Online Reputation
- Donʼt Fall for Fake | Phishing & Scams
- Secure Your Secrets | Privacy & Security
- Itʼs Cool to Be Kind | Online Harassment
- When in Doubt, Talk It Out | Inappropriate Content
Smart, safe technology usage can enable students to help drive their own learning and help schools function better. It is a definite step toward ensuring that all students learning, exploring, and staying safe online, inside and outside school walls.
Last week, I saw the program in action at an event hosted by Google for students and their parents at Gallistel Language Academy in Chicago. It was moving to see all these parents show up for their children on a weekday, in the middle of the day. They know that it’s important that we teach our kids to be safe online because we can’t watch them every minute of every day.
The event was packed with eager children and willing parents, experiencing the Be Internet Awesome program; playing Interland and learning valuable lessons about the digital world. Google had plenty of staff on site to walk families through the program. The kids even received a certificate once they completed Interland and were certified to be internet awesome. It was a great learning experience and I loved seeing how proud the families were of their children.
But Be Internet Awesome/ Se Genial en Internet is not just for those who could attend the event, you can teach your own children to be internet awesome by visiting the Be internet awesome website and letting your kids learn how to navigate their digital lives safely.
What’s the most important thing you think your child needs to know to be internet safe? Does your child know how to be awesome online / se genial en internet and stay safe online? Are you sure?