Talking with your kids about online safety starts by explaining how the internet works and the interests companies take in its users.
Jennifer Li Shotz’s “What Does Your Computer Know About You?” in Scholastic News is an article your child can read independently or aloud with you. Using helpful infographics, Shotz explains how ad targeting works and the extent to which websites gather and store user data.
The article offers takeaway considerations for young internet users (be careful what you search for) and ends with comprehension questions that challenge readers’ memory and opinion-forming skills.
Older children are bound to be more active online, including monitoring and posting to social media. While the speed with which they navigate platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter may make you feel like parent supervision is beyond your control, it’s still important to share a dialogue about best practices — and boundaries — online.
From Scholastic Choices, “Will Your Posts Come Back to Haunt You?” warns of the potential fallout of “social permanence,” the forever profile of you created by your online behaviors and aggregated by search engines. Your child can read true stories of students whose poor decisions ended up on social media — with real-life consequences.
In the above article, Janell Burley Hofmann, author of iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up, offers a five-point strategy called T.H.I.N.K. that children can use to self-check their impulses before posting potentially troublesome content or comments:
- Is it True? Or am I lying or stretching the truth?
- Is it Hurtful? Is it mean or hostile?
- Is it Inspiring? Is this going to be a good influence on others?
- Is it Negative? Is it harsh or abrasive?
- Is it Kind? Is it considerate and compassionate?
A list of adult social media “fails” concludes the piece, so young readers know their elders are just as capable of committing goofs online.
Remember that you’re a role model for your child, so instead of conducting a one-way punitive lesson on online safety, use the time together to connect with your child, answer their questions, and allow them to express their intentions and interests.
And of course, remind them the “delete” button is always an option, as is refraining from commenting.
“Sometimes the best way to express yourself is to not be involved,” Hofmann says.
Be sure to visit the Scholastic Bookshelf for more resources on online safety and other must-discuss topics.
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