I remember when my family first got the internet. I’m from a long line of tech-loving people, so we were ready to embrace it. My mom was pretty much cool with me logging on and playing whatever game I wanted to play, or doing research on my favorite anime shows. Of course I had to make sure no one needed to make a phone call lest I get bumped off.
We didn’t really slow down to talk about the rules. Back then there really weren’t any.
Much later, my younger siblings had fair warnings about dangers on the internet, which back then usually meant inappropriate pop ups or dirty chat rooms.
A full generation later the Internet is much wider. And there are many other concerns lurking.
My kids have been a part of my internet legacy since before they were born. Naturally they’ve seen their pictures online on my website, and they’ve grown to love re-watching old videos we’ve recorded and uploaded to YouTube. The internet is an incredible, powerful tool. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips. So many connections and so much good. When used wisely.
My daughter used an online homeschool curriculum for about six months. Even now, she and my son know how to log onto the family computer, and navigate to their approved programs and websites for typing practice, math practice, and reading.
As they get older I know their range of requests will grow and I want them to be smart about their choices. And I’m trying to teach them how to discern those now. I want my kids to use the Internet. But I want them to be smart about it.
We want to allow our kids to have some freedom online but we want them to be smart about it. Sometimes navigating those conversations can be tricky. Or we don’t know where to start. Google’s Be Internet Awesome is a great resource to find all of that information.
Be Internet Awesome is home to a Digital Safety and Citizen Curriculum for parents and teachers to help us teach our children important lessons about navigating the Internet:
Being internet smart, sharing with care – How to communicate responsibly.
Being internet alert, don’t fall for fake – Being aware that people and things online aren’t always as they seem.
Being internet strong, secure your secrets – Safeguarding private information.
Being internet kind – Learning how to take the high road, by spreading kindness even in the face of negativity.
Being internet brave – Talking out doubts and questions with parents or trusted adults.
To help children learn all of these lessons Google has created a fun little interactive game called Interland.
Interland helps kids learn how to navigate the internet in a safe and responsible way. I set it up for my kids to try and they love the game aspect but I sat by and watched and it brought up a lot of great conversation starters such as “what do you do if you get a friend request from someone you don’t know?” and “What should you do if someone messages you a juicy rumor about someone from another class?” It dives into the “why” behind some of the rules we set for ourselves and our children online with security and kindness.
There are also sections about deciphering what’s real and what’s not, how to set a strong enough password, what information you should or shouldn’t share online, and how to treat people when you’re behind the screen (hint: the same way you would in person).
Of course each family can go further with their own guidelines, rules and frequent re-evaluations (for instance, I told her she could share her email password with me where the game suggested she keep it private) but I love how the game made a lot of problems that come up relatable and something we could discuss before issues arise.
Our babies are growing up. Not long ago we were stressed about sleep training and starting solids. Now we’re at the age where they’re gaining independence, but we don’t want to just hand over the keys to the world without some gut-checking first. Be Internet Awesome is a great resource, and then the Family Link app takes things a step further and helps parents set and monitor some digital ground rules and help guide their kids as they learn, play and explore online. You can set time limits for different apps with compatible devices. I like that I can let her read as long as she wants in her reading apps, but add a limit to game time. She’s gaining more independence but also learning healthy habits regarding screen time.
The Internet led me to choose my college, find my scholarships, my husband, and eventually was an avenue for my dream job. But online I’ve also witnessed a lot of heartache, bullying, and lies. Let’s give our kids a head start on learning to use it right.
Overall the internet is awesome. Let’s help our kids to be Internet awesome.