Being a good citizen in the real world helps keep people safe, but it’s important to be a good citizen in the online world as well. That’s digital citizenship. Since children are exposed to the internet so early, teaching digital citizenship for kids is critical at all stages of their web exploration. If you’re looking for ways to help keep students safe online—and encourage them to watch out for the safety of others—we’ve got some ideas to get you started.
Learn digital literacy
When an online search can take students to thousands of possible sites, learning how to separate good information from bad can be difficult. Some key concepts to consider include:
- Clickbait: Websites frequently use headlines designed to get people to click—sometimes to earn ad revenue and sometimes to infect devices with harmful software.
- Fake news: Knowing that sites or social posts with a strong bias against one ideology or another are often misleading or untrue.
- Empathy: Understanding the emotions behind the words people write online and how to reach out if they see someone in distress.
Protect sensitive data
One out of five people have admitted to sharing sensitive data with strangers or people they don’t know well—a habit that opens them up to financial or identity theft. When keeping kids safe online, you can use the acronym YAPPY to help them remember things they shouldn’t share online:
- Your full name
- Phone number
- Your plans and birth date
Studies show that more than one-third of people feel they have been cyberbullied. But90% of children ignore cyberbullying when they see it online. When teaching digital citizenship for kids, help children stop cyberbullying when they see it by having them role-play the following steps:
- Stop what they are doing.
- Take a screenshot or print the cyberbullying post.
- Share the evidence with a trusted adult so the issue can be addressed.
Practice digital wellness
Too much screen time can impact students’ memory and brain development. Part of keeping kids safe online is reminding them that being a good digital citizen also means spending time away from their devices every day.
Discuss digital footprints
Every time someone goes online to upload a picture, make a comment or create a post, they add to their digital footprint in ways that can have long-reaching effects—both positive and negative. Help kids understand and take control of their digital footprint by:
- Having them search for their name in quotes and see what appears. For example, type in “Jane Smith.” If no results come up, add a city and province/territory to be sure they are capturing their full footprint.
- Encouraging them to change their social media privacy settings so that only friends or family can see their posts.
- Walking them through how to remove a social media post. Have them visit the Help or About page to request that it be taken down.
Create better online citizens
Teaching digital citizenship for kids helps them care for themselves and others online—and prevents them from making mistakes that could affect their future.