Inside: The four critical things parents need to do to keep kids safe online and teach them to spread kindness. This is a sponsored collaboration with Google and the Forward Influence Network.
Do you know what your kids are doing online?
One of the biggest concerns among parents is cyberbullying — and with good reason! Almost three-fourths of all children in the United States will witness bullying during their school career. More than a quarter will experience bullying directly.
How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online
Last week I teamed up with Google to host a Parent’s Night Out event to talk about what we can all do together to help keep our kids safe online and prevent bullying.
About 20 influencers, parents, and educators enjoyed the delicious fare and cozy private lounge at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Downtown Houston. It was an amazing evening among friends, both old and new, and we all learned a lot from each other about how to keep kids safe online and prevent internet bullying.
The one thing I heard over and over again was the importance of keeping an open line of communication with your children.
Our group was in unanimous agreement on two main points:
- Parents should be the boss of the internet in the house.
- Bother teachers and parents should be teaching kids to spread kindness online.
Be the Boss of Your Tween or Teen’s Internet Usage
Sara, a community college career counselor and blogger at My Think Big Life, says that the most important thing she’s learned from her experience is that the parents whose kids stay out of trouble online are the parents that are completely in charge when it comes to the internet and social media in their family.
Those parents took four key steps to keep kids safe online:
- Be intrusive — Don’t be afraid to be nosy when it comes to what your kids are doing online! Children and teens should understand that devices belong to the parents and using them is a privilege. Parents should have passwords to all social media profiles, email accounts, and apps.
- Get to know their social circle — Your tween or teen’s friends shouldn’t be strangers. Learn names, meet them and their parents whenever possible.
- Monitor usage — Be friends with your teens on social media and do regular, unannounced “spot checks” of what they’re posting online. Know exactly what apps they’re using, how they’re using them, who they’re talking to, etc.
- Collect devices at night — Kids and teens should not have access to electronic devices and the internet when parents are not able to monitor their usage. Keep devices in safe place where kids can’t get to them.
Valerie, a mom of one and blogger at Val Around Town, takes it one step further and sets limits for screen time, in addition to monitoring usage and educating her daughter.
PhD student Jonika shared a recent experience where her high school brothers told their parents about a supposed threat to their school circulating on social media. Because their family keeps an open line of communication, Jonika’s brothers felt safe to come to their parents with a potentially dangerous situation.
Fortunately, the threat turned out to be a hoax, but it is an important reminder to us all about just how critical it is to stay on top of your teen’s internet and social media usage.
Teach Your Kids to Spread Kindness Online
In addition to staying on top of internet usage, all of the parents and teachers I spoke with emphasized that bullying can be countered by teaching kids to spread kindness online.
Israel, a real estate agent and father of two boys, explains, “I’m not sure you can prevent [bullying]. The internet has become a sounding board for things people wouldn’t normally say.”
However, that doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless — far from it! Israel offers four pieces of advice that he uses to teach his sons to be “upstanders” instead of bystanders:
- Don’t engage with bullies.
- Reach out to kids who’ve been bullied.
- Stand up to the bullies by calling out mean behavior.
- Report bullying to an adult or someone who can help.
Mother of two, Tara agrees with the importance of teaching kindness at home. “It starts with how you raise your child. Teach them compassion and respect and they won’t bully others.”
One of the easiest ways to teach kids to spread kindness (without it feeling like a lesson) is through fun activities. I’m a big fan of Google’s free online game, Interland because my girls love it and they learn valuable information at the same time. Keep reading for more about Google’s free tools for parents and educators below!
One more tip about spreading kindness…
And it’s one you might not expect!
High school teacher Edgar reminds us that even bullies deserve compassion, explaining that bullies are often “being bullied at home by an adult. [Bullying] is all they know and a sign that they may also be a victim.”
Reporting bullying behavior not only helps keep the bully’s victim safe, but may help the bully too!
Free Tools for Teachers and Parents to Keep Kids Safe Online
Google is one of the leaders in the effort to prevent cyberbullying through their multifaceted program: Be Internet Awesome. This free program provides both parents and educators with tools to teach kids online safety and digital citizenship. That way kids will not only learn to protect themselves from cyberbullying, but also be less likely to become a bully themselves.
- Teachers: Google offers a free Be Kind Curriculum, which teaches kids how to identify and respond to bullying, as well as express feelings in a positive, constructive way.
- Parents: Play Interland, Google’s free online game that teaches kids the essentials for safe internet usage and puts their kindness skills to the test.
We tried out Interland and my two oldest daughters loved it!
While Interland is targeted towards tweens and teens (understandably), my four-year-old loved to watch the action and answer questions too. It’s never too young to start teaching kindness and how to navigate the internet safely!