4 Key Practices to Empower and Keep Youth Safe Online
February 7, 2023
February 7 is Safer Internet Day, a day to raise awareness of the evolution of technology, its impacts on youth and how we can empower them with the skills and confidence needed to stay safe and responsible online.
Here are 4 key practices:
While keeping up with the constant evolution of technology can be challenging for parents, guardians and educators, youth can participate in helping us learn! This empowers youth by showing them they can participate in teaching us something new.
Call to action: Invite youth to teach you about the new apps they are using or games they are playing.
Learn About and Reinforce Digital Citizenship
Good digital citizenship means positively contributing to online spaces. For example:
- Knowing how to be responsible with information they find and share online;
- Upholding respect and inclusion through netiquette (Internet etiquette); and
- Thinking critically about their future role and contributions online.
The best way to combat negative online experiences, like cyberbullying, is to have youth feel empowered and encouraged to contribute positively to online environments, such as remaining kind and vigilant. As parents, guardians and educators, we can set the same standards of behaviours and expectations for our children and teens online as we would offline.
Call to action: Have youth search themselves online to see what their digital footprint looks like. Consider discussing with them how they interpret the online persona they are portraying to the world. What are they proud of, and what might they change?
Call to action: Remind and encourage youth and children to report cyberbullying or unsafe behaviours when they notice it and create a safe space where they can approach us with challenges they may experience online.
Set Ground Rules
Just like at home, setting rules and standards for online environments is a good practice. Rules or standards may vary by age, but these should apply to youth using any internet-enabled game, app, or social media platform. General rules we recommend:
- Create safe passwords and never share those passwords.
- Keep personal information to yourself (e.g., location, birth date, address), they should not be shared anywhere without permission.
- Only talk to people online that you know in real life. It’s important to note that most online/video games have a text and audio chatting function. Almost half of youth report seeing or being exposed to bullying through games.
- Always report the first sign of any trouble to a parent, guardian, or trusted adult.
Call to action: Invite youth to also come up with and share their own rules/standards to add to this list.
Call to action: Develop a list of trusted websites on online security and check them often for the latest information on keeping youth safe online.
Talk to Them About What They are Doing Online
As soon as a child or teen has a device, take an interest daily in their online world. Open and honest conversations with them, regardless of age, are encouraged to know about what they’re doing online.
Call to action: Don’t be afraid to ask! Who are they interacting with? What challenges they may be having and what online relationships do they have?