February 10th is Safer Internet Day, an event sponsored by Insafe to promote safe and responsible online behaviour. As the Internet becomes a more and more central part of our lives, we are coming to a better understanding of just what risks and opportunities it provides. We are learning, for instance, that youth are less likely to be victimized by adult strangers than by other youth, whether it is in the form of sexual solicitation or online harassment: a recent study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, prepared for the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States, supports other recent research in finding that it is the particular behaviours that some youth consciously engage in that place them at risk – and that not all youth are equally at risk.
This shows that parents and educators must learn to identify the behaviours and characteristics that make youth most likely to engage in risky behaviours, and to treat kids not as passive victims to be sheltered but as active agents who need to learn how to behave safely and responsibly online. It’s not enough (even if it were possible) to filter kids’ online experiences in hopes of sheltering them from danger: they need to learn not just how to be safe online, but why responsible and ethical online behaviour is in their own best interests.
For more on safe and ethical Internet use, here are some our resources that can be used in the home or classroom:
- Parenting the Net Generation, a licensed resource designed for community leaders that addresses family interests and concerns on issues that arise when young people go online.
- Devenir e-parent: un tutorial pour suivre vos enfants en-ligne, which gives an interactive look at kids’ online world and provides strategies for parents on how to help their kids be safe and behave ethically online (only available in French)
- Privacy Playground: The First Adventure of the Three Cyberpigs, a free educational game for kids aged 8-10 that shows how to protect your privacy as you surf the internet
- Passport to the Internet, an interactive classroom resource for Grades 4-8 that offers a comprehensive Internet literacy tutorial in online privacy, safety and ethics. (Available through a license agreement.)