Back-to-School: HCDE Provides Tips to Keep Children Safe in the Digital World

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August 10, 2017 by HCDE-Texas

shutterstock_118112995Technology and digital devices are ingrained in our children’s daily life from an early age. With the increase in cyberbullying incidents over the past 10 years, many parents worry about the safety of their child in the digital world. Harris County Department of Education’s Digital and Virtual Learning Manager David McGeary provides safety tips to help keep children from harm and become positive digital citizens.

5 tips to keep kids safe in a digital world:

  1. Talk to kids about digital safety at a young age and do it often.
  2. Be a part of your children’s online experiences. Know the sites they visit and games they play.
  3. Don’t allow young children to spend unsupervised time online. Keep the family computer in a common area in the home. Keep charging devices out of private areas like bedrooms.
  4. Enforce this rule: If you won’t do something face-to-face, don’t do it online. (Discuss social interactions.)
  5. Humanize online social interactions. Remind them that behind every pixelated avatar is a human being.

McGeary suggests that while children may be getting information about safe online behavior from their school, students who have regular discussions with their parents about digital safety are more likely to be vigilant and self-advocate when something goes wrong online. He also suggests parents become partners in their child’s online experiences.

“Take interest in the sites your children visit and the games they play,” said McGeary. “If kids are engaged in constant discussion about the digital realm, they are much more likely to approach a parent or guardian if something out of the ordinary occurs.”

Next, don’t allow children to spend unsupervised time online, especially when they are younger. It may be helpful to place a family computer in a common space like the living room or home office so that parents can see the screen content. Keeping device chargers out of bedrooms can also help keep children off their devices while in private areas.

McGeary also emphasizes one key piece of advice when discussing social interactions online – if you wouldn’t do something face-to-face, don’t do it online. Research shows that victims of cyberbullying have often bullied someone online themselves. By humanizing the online space and developing empathy for others, parents can help their children break the cycle of victim-and-victimization.

“Encourage children to engage in social activities that humanize online social interactions like sending an email to a distant family member or posting encouraging statements to friends via social media to remind them that at the end of every pixelated avatar is a human being,” said McGeary.

For more resources on cyberbullying and digital safety, visit http://www.cyberwise.org/digital-citizenship-resources.

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