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Be a Good Digital Citizen: Simple eight-step plan to teach kids internet safety

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExpertsParentingPost Category - ParentingParenting - Post Category - Toddler & PreschoolerToddler & Preschooler - Post Category - Older KidsOlder Kids

As a mother of three kids (ages 11, 10, and 4), I feel it’s my duty to prepare my kids to take their place in society as informed, respectful citizens, proactive and successful employees, and someday wonderful significant others. In this fast-paced digital world, my job often feels overwhelming. To simplify my mission, I have a “Playing it SMART” plan which includes five topics: Social skills basics, from holding doors open to using polite words, Mealtime manners, Art of conversation, Restaurant behavior and Technology talk.

This last one means, of course, learning to become a good digital citizen, which is why today I’d like to share playing it SMART with technology. If you sometimes feel as if you’re losing control over your kids in this digital world – between surfing the net, playing games, watching YouTube videos, googling, socialising and more – you’re not alone! We all want our kids to grow up to stay safe and respectful online, so here’s my 8-step plan to get you started:

1. Spend Time with Your Kids Online
As parents, we’re all guilty of using technology as our ‘break’ from the kids. They’re entertained, and we don’t have to worry about where and what they are doing. But here’s the thing: We DO need to worry about where and how they are interacting on the Internet. Our first step is to understand where they are going online.

2. Private and Personal Information
Review with your kids what private and personal information is all about. Detailed information such as name, address, birthday, photo, school and phone numbers should not be shared on the Internet. Play a game – list different items and ask them to identify if it’s private or personal so that they really learn the difference.

3. Visit Safe Sites 
Stress to your kids the importance of only visiting parent- or teacher-approved sites. And when in doubt, get them to ask a grown-up. Play the red, green and yellow game to help them understand which sites are appropriate to visit. List the differences: red sites are not age-appropriate, green sites are approved sites and yellow sites need prior approval.

4. Password and Username Protection
Teach your kids about safe passwords and protection. Challenge your child to come up with creative passwords that don’t give out personal information. Keep everything private and avoid giving out information to friends.

5. Spam and Scams Awareness
Does your child know to click the ‘x’ on pop-ups? Introduce the basics of spam and scams. Teach them to never open up emails, pop-ups or attachments that you receive from people you don’t know.

6. Do Not Over-Share – The Internet is VERY public!
The message is simple: Always think and ask permission before sharing photos, emails and attachments. Ask your child to answer one question before sharing files: “Is this something that my parents, teachers and grandparents would be fine sharing?”

7. Stranger Danger online
Stranger danger is a familiar subject to any child. Explain to your child that the same rules also apply online! Never talk to strangers on the Internet. Any stranger can pretend to be a friend, and you have no way of knowing who they are because they’re behind the mask of the computer. Tell children to talk to an adult if someone they don’t know tries to approach them online.

8: Technology Code of Conduct
Be specific with your kids on how to behave safely and respectfully while using technology. To help you with your efforts, I offer a free Tech Code of Conduct on my website at This is a great tool to outline what is expected of your child in this digital world.

With this game plan to playing it SMART with technology, you’re on your way to teaching your kids internet safety and how to be respectful digital citizens! Check for additional resources. I wish you and your child safe Internet travels!

Image sourced via shutterstock

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