5 tips from cyber education specialists to keep kids digitally safe, create responsible online citizens

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September 14, 2015 by HCDE Communications

5 tips from cyber education specialists to keep kids digitally safe, create responsible online citizensWhen it comes to student safety in the cyber world, digital content and education specialists David McGeary and Lynnice Hockaday know about the threats. From predators to hackers to intellectual property theft, they hear many a story in the trenches.

Still, these digital educators who provide services for educators and students through Harris County Department of Education prefer to focus on the positives of online learning. They believe they are preparing young responsible digital citizens of the future.

A responsible digital citizen is defined as someone who uses an online digital community as a communication and collaborative tool for the greater good.

“You build an online presence in a socially ethical way and also are able to judge the credibility of the information online while protecting users’ privacy and safety,” said Hockaday.

As HCDE digital specialists, the pair helps teachers find online resources that enhance learning in the classroom. They also help teachers develop a positive online presence to provide information and resources to students and parents.

“We help teachers build engaging online content for mainstream curriculum, as well as support for struggling students,” said McGeary.

McGeary and Hockaday share these five tips for digital safety as the school year begins. Suggestions and resources accompany each tip.

No. 1: Learn to use privacy and security settings on your kids’ online devices and apps. Doing so protects them and their personal information.

“You may need to control access to our child’s profile, how and when they are contacted online, and what information they can find through content filters,” said McGeary. “Privacy and safety extends to password and access control. When kids set passwords for apps, talk with them about setting up strong passwords and best ways to keep and remember passwords. Doing so gives the parent access to the password should they need it.”

No. 2: Talk to you kids about good online citizenship.

Talk about safety and reliable resources online. Ask important questions about what might or might not be safe.

“Remind your kids that citizenship isn’t just about being safe, but about being a good person online,” said Hockaday, who has raised three tech-responsible kids ages 10, 17 and 20. Role play can help your child understand interactions and their consequences, she says. Try to define cyber bullying. A large percentage of online bullies are not bullies in real life. They just fail to connect the fact that there is another human being on the other end.

“Humanizing the online experience is important,” Hockaday said. “Teach your children to leave a big, positive digital footprint.”

No. 3: Use web-enabled devices and machines in public areas of your house as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids what they are up to.

While cell phones may seem harmless, they are essentially full-blown computers carried around in a pocket.

Create a central charging hub located in a well-trafficked area of your home like your kitchen or living area. Call it the cyber area and have your children use their devices there.

“By having discussions with your kids about what they are doing online, you are opening up communication and showing interest in creative use of their digital devices,” said McGeary. “Kids who actively share their musical, game or creative interests with their parents are statistically more likely to discuss other things that may be happening in their cyber world.”

No. 4: Use sites like iKeepSafe.org and CommonSenseMedia.org to stay up-to-date on new social media tools/resources.

Parents may also want to invest in apps like MyMobileWatchdog to help them learn what their kids are doing on web-enabled devices and to limit access to unsafe spaces.

“Using these apps help adults as well as kids,” said Hockaday. “Many adults use poor online habits, so these sites can help parents become better digital citizens themselves. “

No. 5: Help teach your kids to be content promoters versus content thieves.

Encourage your child to give credit to other people for their good ideas in order to become a good online citizen.

While every thought is not 100 percent original, the Internet is often a ripe source for plagiarism. Teach children to share their new creations while also respecting the creations of others.

“Plagiarism, intellectual property theft, homework and test sharing and authentic scholarship are topics parents must discuss in relation to digital sharing,” said McGeary.

While online space is the sum total of all human information, it’s important to teach kids to be content producers versus content thieves who recycle ideas and dilute online scholarship.

“Support the value of your kids sharing their online creations while also respecting other users’ online creations,” he said.

For more information about online citizenship and services provided by the Teaching and Learning Center, a division of Harris County Department of Education, email dmcgeary@hcde-texas.org or lhockaday@hcde-texas.org.

About the Blogger:
David McGeary, manager of innovation at HCDE, spends his days exploring the ways that old and new digital tools and resources can be used to enhance a student’s ability to learn new things, collaborate with learners anywhere and share new ideas with the world. When not hard at work, David enjoys playing classical guitar, practicing photography or doing anything his new wife tells him to do.

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