Talking about internet safety with your kids might seem like a straightforward and serious task. You sit down at the table and outline your expectations. Going through those rules one by one and writing them down for future reference can feel like you’ve made headway. But when internet safety talks feel more like lectures to your children, they’re less likely to listen.
If you think back to when you were their age, stern or formal discussions with your parents were rarely effective. You might have perceived the talk as a punishment, as being singled out, or just plain unfair and unreasonable. Your parents had the upper hand, and complying with their requests might have felt like a chore — or an insult. Furthermore, you might not have fully understood why you were being asked to follow certain rules.
While internet safety is a serious topic, you can approach it in a fun way. When the talk is upbeat and entertaining, kids are more likely to absorb things. Plus, they’ll become engaged participants instead of acting like they’re receiving a lecture. Here’s how to approach the internet safety talk in enjoyable yet digestible ways.
It’s a well-known fact that children’s brains aren’t fully developed. Even teenagers on the brink of high school graduation don’t have the full cognitive abilities of adults. This reality means that fun conversations about internet safety also have to be age-appropriate and relatable.
Yes, it’s a challenge to remember what it was like to process things as a younger person. But it’s easier if you think about it in terms of someone who uses industry jargon or technical language. You probably have difficulties understanding what they mean and following any questions or instructions. It’s hard to stay engaged when you talk to a tech support rep who doesn’t explain things in down-to-earth ways.
Discussing internet safety–related concepts is similar for your kids. They need relatable comparisons to make a connection. For instance, you could explain how a safe phone for kids is like learning how to ride a bike. You start with training wheels until you grasp how to work with the bike. Once you master how to balance, steer, and brake, you can take the training wheels off.
Incentivizing online safety can be fun and motivating for your kids. Start the discussion by asking children what types of online activities and technologies they’re interested in. Kids might be getting requests from classmates and friends to join social media platforms. They could hear about the latest online games during recess and want to check them out. There might also be some general curiosity about tablets and computers after exposure to them in the classroom.
Once you know what technologies and online activities your child’s interested in, you can begin to set guidelines and rewards. Doing this with empathy, understanding, and respect helps. A 10-year-old might want to start exploring social media, but you’ll want to establish limits. Acknowledge that social media can seem inviting, while gently pointing out the cons, too. Introduce them to the kids’ versions of social platforms, showing them how different features work to keep them safe.
As part of the guidelines, you could also establish tech-oriented family nights. Order in your child’s favorite takeout or prepare a special meal. Explain that this time is for you to explore social media and online activities together on devices the family shares. This strategy can help prevent unsupervised use of social media without making it seem like you’re barking out orders.
Sharing internet safety tips with your kids doesn’t always have to be a sit-down discussion. Try mixing things up by making the “talk” a game. You could use flashcards to introduce the dos and don’ts of messaging apps, web browsers, and online games. Traditional games like charades and speed rounds can also be converted into internet safety discussions. For example, you might engage your kids in a speed round of how to be a good digital citizen.
Educational online games and digital tools can also teach children about internet safety. Some of them use games from the past, such as Hangman, to introduce terms and concepts. Others turn internet safety into a quest where kids can become digital superheroes and fight off “the bad guys.” These games show what online activities aren’t cool or acceptable and which ones are.
Gamification of the learning process is an approach kids can relate to. It’s something they may already be doing in school under blended learning initiatives or in computer and robotics courses. Make a point to play such games and work through digital tools together. Your kids may have questions along the way or want to stop playing to engage in a deeper conversation.
Yes, internet safety can bring up some heavy topics and discussions. Like driving a car, using technology and the internet comes with freedoms and potentially dire consequences. However, kids are likely to be mesmerized by how fun online activities and the internet seem. They aren’t as apt to grasp lectures about unfamiliar concepts and dangers.
Making the process fun and absorbable is a more effective way to get points about internet safety across. Using relatable analogies, rewarding acceptable behaviors, and teaching through games are ways to keep the discussion light and enjoyable. These methods will help establish the trust and open communication you and your kids need to keep them safe.