From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Your Kids About Online Safety

As your kids discover the power of the internet, make discussing the do’s and don’t’s of online behavior a priority.

Dec 20, 2021



From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Your Kids About Online Safety

Dec 20, 2021

These days, it seems like the conversation about online safety can’t start soon enough. As soon as your child has mastered holding a book, they’re also holding a tablet or smartphone. 

Discussing online safety as you introduce the internet to your child is a critical step as they grow to use technology in their everyday lives. Whatever platform or app you approve for your child’s use, you should plan to familiarize them with the risks and dangers inherent with using that platform — even if they are older and digitally intuitive. 

In tandem with your parent-child conversations about physical safety, remind your child that almost anyone in the world can access the same online platforms they do — and with less-than-great intentions. 

For its 100th anniversary, Scholastic spoke with online safety experts to identify a set of tips, articles, and books that make starting a conversation with your child about only safety easier. These resources are part of a broader initiative, called the Scholastic Bookshelf, created for Instagram to raise awareness around contemporary issues affecting children today.

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For children in elementary school:

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.

For children in middle school:

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.

Shop books about the internet for older readers below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store. 

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