Over the past few years social media, and internet use in general, has exploded. Nearly 90% of North Americans have access to and use of the internet regularly. As a parent, this creates a plethora of new safety concerns that are arising out of uncharted waters. Internet safety has become an increasing concern. It is hard to know where to start and how to keep our children safe when they have the entire world accessible at their fingertips.
There is so much anonymity behind a keyboard. Children (and some adults, as well) can feel like their words have little consequence when they are just another face/voice among millions of internet users. It is easy to forget that the recipient of their words is another person, one they may or may not know at all.
So, how do we raise a generation of safe and responsible internet users? I think the key is awareness and communication.
February 9th is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s Safer Internet Day. This initiative is celebrated worldwide to promote responsible digital citizenship among children and youth, as well as safer use of online platforms, technology, and mobile phone use. I believe this is the first step in much needed international conversations and awareness.
Here are my five top points to starting the conversation and keeping your kids safe while enjoying all the internet has to offer.
- Stay involved. Make sure you know when your child is accessing the internet. Know what sites they are visiting and what they are doing. Just like you would make sure they told you where they are going after school and who they will be with, the same should be expected when they are out in the digital world.
- Set boundaries. Expectations should be well established and clear. Set a time limit for internet usage. Make sure devices that are internet accessible are used in common areas of the house so that parents and caregivers can keep an eye on usage. Explain why. Keep communication open. Let them know you are not trying to invade their privacy, you are trying to keep them safe and accountable.
- Make social media accounts private. Sit down with them and help them go through their privacy settings. Make sure you link accounts with your children (like, follow, friend). Interact with them in their cyber life. Be present and approachable.
- Discuss privacy. Talk about what information should and should not ever be given out online. Make sure they know that it is not safe to share things like home addresses or school/work schedules.
- Reinforce that the internet IS real life. There is a common disconnect between “real life” and online activity. Make sure you discuss with your child(ren) that how they present themselves online is how people will see them in real life as well. Talk about what is appropriate behavior. The guideline I like to follow is, if I wouldn’t say it to a person’s face or in a crowded downtown, I won’t post it.
Of course this is just the tip of the safety iceberg.To find out more about how to keep kids safe and Safer Internet Day head over to www.saferinternetday.org
In addition to Safer Internet Day, on February 24, a Canadian national campaign called Pink Shirt Day will happen. Between Safer Internet Day on the 9th and Pink Shirt Day on the 24th, Shaw Communications, along with key partners, are teaming up to support Pink Shirt Promises. This is a national campaign aimed at ending bullying across Canada.
How can you get involved? Glad you asked! Shaw is asking Canadians to publicly pledge their Pink Shirt Promise. This is a commitment to end bullying. You are encouraged to post this commitment online, on various social media platforms, using the hashtag #PinkShirtPromise. You are also encouraged to take photos of yourself and a friend making a pinky promise to stop bullying, using the hashtag in the caption.
Every Canadian resident (excluding Quebec) who submits a written promise about what you will do to end bullying via social media by Wednesday, February 24, 2016, will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win the grand prize: a flight for two to Toronto, two nights hotel accommodation, a Entertainment Tonight Canada Experience, and $1,500 shopping spree to an Ivanhoe Cambridge mall.
In addition to the national campaign, Ivanhoe Cambridge Malls are holding events throughout Canada. They will have interactive displays installed at local malls from February 17-24. Shoppers will be able to write their pledge on a Post-It and stick it on the Post-It Pink Wall. They will learn about safety and the fight to end bullying. On the 24th, Pink Shirt Day, everyone is encouraged to wear a pink shirt to their local #PinkShirtPromise mall event.
So, show that support and together let’s try and make the internet a safer place for our children.
About The Pink Shirt Promise:
Pink Shirt Day is a day when people wear a pink shirt to symbolize a stand against bullying. The original event was organized by Nova Scotian teens David Shepherd and Travis Price who, in 2007, bought and distributed 50 pink shirts after schoolmate Charles McNeill was bullied for wearing a pink shirt during the first day of school.
The Pink Shirt Promises campaign brings together the expertise, knowledge, and resources of community partners from across Canada. Key partners include:
-The Canadian Centre for Child Protection
-Canadian Red Cross
-Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre
-Kids Help Phone
-Companies Committed to Kids
-Rock Solid Foundation
More information on #PinkShirtPromise can be found at www.shaw.ca/pinkshirtpromise
About Safer Internet Day:
Safer Internet Day is celebrated worldwide each February. It aims to promote responsible digital citizenship among children and youth, as well as safer use of online platforms, technology, and mobile phone use.
Use the hashtags #SID2016 and #Up2Us across your social media accounts to promote and raise awareness about the importance of online safety.
More info can be found at www.saferinternetday.org