With children growing up in a digital age, many kids have access to technology in their homes. After 10 years of teaching in elementary school, it surprised me how many students had access to technology in their bedrooms. “I don’t care if I’m sent to my room,” I heard one child say, “because I have a TV, a DVD player, a CD player, a computer, and I love to IM my friends.” In one scary instance, I had a female student tell me about a new friend she was meeting in the local park after spending the evening chatting over Instant Messaging. I called her parents, who contacted authorities, and a disaster was averted. This time.
Kids need to be aware of the dangers on the Internet. How do parents and educators start this dialogue with students? There are several websites available to kids, parents, and educators with a variety of resources in digital and print form.
On the top of my list is the website sponsored by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children called Netsmartz. There are separate sections for parents, teachers, and kids, but certainly adults should look at all of these resources and not just the ones under their “tab”. For example, the kids section has several interactive games that tell about the dangers of the Internet from spam to viruses to online predators. There is a very powerful game (about 2 minutes long) called “Who’s Your Friend on the Internet?” I projected this game in my college technology class to a group of current teachers, and they ended up making the same mistakes that children do. Lesson: You can NEVER be too careful.
There is also a website just for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They report that “approximately one in seven youths (10 to 17 years) experience a sexual solicitation or approach while online”. Talking to your children and educating them about the Internet is the best place to start to prevent something from happening.
In addition, ChatDanger is a site “all about the potential dangers on interactive services online like chat, IM, online games, email and on mobiles”.
Finally, SafeKids.com is a site that has a nice list of print resources including family contracts for online safety and guidelines for parents.
Hopefully, these resources provide a starting point for discussion for your children or your students so we can be committed to keeping them safe.