Happy Safer Internet Day! Held on February 9, 2021, the event is celebrating its 18th anniversary. The theme for this year is “Together for a better Internet,” reminding us that everyone has a role to play in online safety.
Why is internet safety so important, and what can you do to help keep your children safe? Families, read on for a quick background on Safer Internet Day with 7 tips you can use to boost your children’s online safety.
What is Safer Internet Day and Why is it Celebrated?
Safer Internet Day is an annual event held by the organization Insafe since 2004. Just think—this event began before smartphones and tablets made Internet access even easier for kids. Since it started, Safer Internet Day has spread awareness about protecting children online and is celebrated in over 170 countries, according to the official website.
Internet safety is defined here as the protection of a child’s privacy and well-being while they are online. Celebrating Safer Internet Day is a time to help your kids use the Internet as a resource and avoid common dangers.
Today’s children are digital natives, a term that means that they were born after the Internet and digital technology became common household items. For most of them, the Internet is unavoidable—it will always be a big part of the world they’re growing up in. Teaching digital natives Internet safety is not just a useful skill—it’s a necessity so that they can have safe and healthy lives.
Also, Internet safety is an important part of digital citizenship—or a child’s ability to use the Internet as a helpful resource and avoid online abuse. By teaching Internet safety now, you can set your child up for a lifetime of healthy online habits.
Of course, it’s impossible to ensure that your child will never be in an unsafe situation online. Even the most cautious children can be victims of cyberbullying, for example. But by practicing online safety with your child, you can make sure that they know how to protect themselves if such a situation arises.
7 Family Tips for Safer Internet Day 2021
The Internet can be either beneficial or dangerous, depending on how it is used. Putting together a few Internet safety rules as a family can help your children avoid risks while online.
These tips are all great ideas for family conversation starters on Safer Internet Day. Go over them with your child or select a few to focus on as a family.
1. Talk to your children about Internet safety from a young age.
How early is too early to help kids build healthy Internet safety habits? According to expert David Emm in an article with The Guardian, you should have these conversations as soon as your child starts using the internet.
If you start early on, you can establish healthy habits in their regular usage of the Internet. And as they continue to explore, your child will know what to do to keep themselves safe.
2. Protect your child’s personal information.
Let your child know that, while exploring the internet can be fun, they should never share their name, address, or any other personal information. As the New York Public Library recommends, remind them to keep information like this out of their usernames or passwords.
3. Supervise your family’s internet usage.
Depending on your family’s needs, website monitoring may or may not be needed. But regardless of what you choose, keep an eye on how your child uses the internet and what websites they visit.
Internet Safety 101 encourages families to keep computers and tablets in an open area of the home, like the living room. Digital media then becomes a family activity instead of a solitary one, and safer Internet habits are more likely to be fostered.
4. Tell children what to do if a stranger contacts them online.
Of course you don’t want your children to come across strangers on the Internet. But it’s important to prepare them so they know what to do if it happens.
The National Children’s Advocacy Center recommends that families tell their children that if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable online, they can come to you no matter what. Additionally, remind them to never message someone who they do not know in real life.
5. Show children how to identify and avoid online phishing.
Everyone online is likely to run into fraudulent messages at some point. One of the most dangerous types is online phishing, which is when a person pretends to be someone they are not to gain access to personal information.
The Internet Safety 101 organization suggests instructing children to never send their personal information through emails, forms, or online posts. It may also be helpful to set up online accounts yourself for children as needed to prevent them from signing up for fraudulent websites.
6. Watch for common signs of online bullying.
Unfortunately, even people that children know in real life will not always be kind online. In addition to telling your child they can come to you if something happens online, keep an eye out for these signs of cyberbullying as noted by the Anti-Defamation League:
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Unexplained decline in grades or refusal to attend school
- Upset, sad, or angry behaviors after going online
7. Help your older children keep their social media private.
As your children grow older, you may feel comfortable allowing them to get a social media account. Although there are plenty of positives to social media, it’s important to teach your children how to be safe and smart with this tool so they can avoid the potential negatives.
According to Safe Search Kids, it’s important to encourage your children to set their social media settings to private. That way, only their friends and family will be able to message them or see their posts.