February 7, 2023
Do you remember the days when students had to visit a bricks-and-mortar library in person to do research? Remember that old relic called a card catalog? Fortunately, thanks to the internet, students’ access to knowledge is no longer limited to a small number of books gathering dust on local library shelves. Today’s students were born into a world where the internet is ever present, ever evolving, interactive, and full of diverse people and ideas. These characteristics make the internet an incredible learning tool. They also make it difficult for young people to navigate it wisely and safely. You can help students avoid possible problems now and later (you know the saying: “Once it’s online, it lives forever”) by following these pointers for internet safety — and encouraging families to do the same.
Attack of the Killer…Television?
Perhaps as you enjoyed a favorite show after a long day at school when you were younger, a family member chided, “T.V. rots your brain!” While your brain wasn’t actually rotting, the sentiment wasn’t totally misguided. A slew of problems come with too much screen time:
- Sleep deprivation
- Loss of cognitive ability
- Impaired social skills
- Weakened emotional control or judgment
- Delayed learning in young children
- Lower self-esteem
It’s important to limit screen time regardless of age, especially while a child’s brain is still developing. When families manage screen time for children and teens, it’s also important for adult family members to lead by example:
- At dinner time, instead of turning on the T.V., swap stories about things that happened during the day and have real conversations.
- When there’s downtime, though you may be tempted to catch up on social media, pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read or take a walk outside. Show children that a screen isn’t the only way to be entertained.
Y4Y’s Tips for Families: Managing Screen and Study Time provides ideas you can share to help families strike a healthy balance between phones and productivity.
Practicing Proper (N)Etiquette
Netiquette doesn’t mean saying “please” and “thank you,” although that’s still important! Netiquette refers to practices and behaviors that help people interact safely and effectively in online spaces. When children are in the digital world, we can’t always be there to monitor what they (or others) are up to. With trolling, bullying, and other unethical behaviors becoming commonplace on the internet, it’s crucial that students know that they’re responsible for their own behaviors and responses — and that’s a powerful thing! Along with Y4Y’s Online Safety and Netiquette Training to Go, here are some important values to teach students:
- Protect privacy — Never share important information with strangers online, even if they feel like “friends.”
- Protect passwords — Set strong passwords and get in the habit of changing them regularly.
- Steer clear of online bandits — To protect yourself from online stealing and viruses, make sure you know the difference between a shady site and a reputable one.
- Keep your cool — If you encounter online bullying, it’s easy for emotions to run high. Instead of fanning the flames, the best thing to do is to report harassment (or any other behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable) to a trusted adult.
The internet can seem like a scary forest with monsters lurking at every turn. As adults, we’re well aware of the dangers. In fact, it’s easy for us to become Web Worriers. But ignoring the online world isn’t the answer. Instead, we can arm young people with the right tools and knowledge to help them avoid dark places and find a wonderland full of possibilities. The virtual age has just begun. The sooner students know how to navigate it, the sooner they can become Web Warriors!