With children having spent much more time at home – and online – than ever before during the Covid 19 lockdown there is a dilemma which dogs parents and guardians:
How can you encourage children to use the internet to explore all the wonders it holds, while keeping them safe from the nasty stuff that is prevalent on the web as well?
As an internet savvy grandmother who is very much in love with the world wide web both in my professional and personal life, it worries me. I want the kids to enjoy the advantages of all the knowledge they can absorb online, but one can’t police them all time, everywhere, in cyberspace. Even if you do, inappropriate content or undesirable communication can creep in.
The problem is how to keep a child’s interest sparked and their confidence high without putting them off of the internet altogether.
It’s a matter that concerns Google too – they want the next generation to be (in their words) “internet legends”. They’ve partnered up with Parentzone, the UK experts in digital family life; the PSHE Association, a national body for personal social, health and economic education; and Internet Matters, a source of advice to help parents keep their children safe online.
Becoming Confident Digital Citizens
Working with these bodies, and drawing on their own expertise, Google has put together a comprehensive programme aimed at empowering parents and teachers to help children become smart, safe internet explorers and “confident digital citizens”.
This is a different approach to the one taken by most concerned parents, which is to limit internet time and use apps or software to track their offspring’s online activity. Instead, the Google campaign seems to advocate giving children free rein to explore the internet, armed with the knowledge of how to recognise, and deal with, any menacing digital hazards they may come across.
Time will tell if this approach works – the Google programme has yet to be tested in the long term, but working as I do with the internet every day – and the creative web development team here at Dentons Digital – I think they’re on the right track.
When judging the Google “Internet Legends” approach, bear in mind this result that emerged in a Parentzone survey: 71.3% of young respondents thought their parents do not respect their privacy online. The upshot is, as one child remarked: “They try to track me so I use fake accounts so I can have some privacy.”
As any parent knows, there is nothing so attractive as forbidden fruit, so instead of removing a child’s ability to take responsibility for his/her online experience, I believe it is best to rather give him/her the tools to navigate cyberspace safely.
Five valuable lessons on Internet Use
To me the Google Be Internet Legends campaign makes a lot of sense, and at the very least serves as a valuable tool for supporting a child’s digital education. It certainly can’t do any harm.
It takes the form of five sets of fundamental lessons, accompanied with activities, which children can work through with a teacher and/or parent. These lessons encompass:
- BE INTERNET SHARP: Smart sharing, not oversharing
- BE INTERNET ALERT: Knowing what’s real and what’s fake
- BE INTERNET SECURE: Keeping your information safe
- BE INTERNET KIND: Respecting others
- BE INTERNET BRAVE: Speaking up
Teachers and parents can download a toolkit of teaching resources and materials for free, as well as a Digital Wellbeing lesson plan designed to fit in with the national curriculum.
There’s also an accompanying set of four challenging online adventure games, called Interland, based on the key internet safety lessons.
So, why not go with Google and make turning your child into an Internet Legend part of your lockdown home-schooling regime? It’s constructive and fun – there’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.
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