Playing around on the computer together is a good opportunity to check that your child is making smart decisions while opening up the conversation about how to stay safe online. Here are some ways to mark Internet Safety Week with your family.
1. Recruit your child to play “tour guide” for her favorite websites.
Invite your child to show you around the places she likes to visit online. You may already be familiar with these sites, but some may have added new features since your last visit. And you may be unaware of other sites that your child logs onto at school. Most kids love to show their parents around new places—even virtual ones!
2. Ask your child to teach you an online game, then challenge him to a match.
You’ll be amazed by the amount of skill and smarts you’ll need to keep up with your child. This goes for older children who are involved with online gaming, as well. Learn how to play and join in. Being involved at this level is not only fun, it will also allow you to help your child deal with any inappropriate behavior by other players.
3. Go on an online scavenger hunt.
Come up with a list of items and information to collect. Your list might be random (a photo of an orange cat; a recipe for chocolate chip muffins; an online metric calculator; the distance between the sun and Earth). Or it might play off your child’s interests. Use a kid-friendly search engine and set off with your child on your hunt. If you have more than one computer with Internet access available at home or at your public library, try competing against each other to see who collects all of the items first.
4. Create an Online Rules! poster.
Come up with the rules together, such as:
- “I will log off of the computer when my time is up.”
- “I will ask Mom or Dad before clicking on anything that I’m unsure of.”
- “I will respect other people’s feelings when I’m playing online games.”
Design a poster of the rules and hang it by the computer where it will serve as a reminder that going online “rules” when you follow the Online Rules!
5. Role-play “What if...?” scenarios with your child.
Your child will feel more confident going online—and you’ll feel more at ease—if he’s aware of the possible dangers. Prepare your child for different scenarios by acting them out or discussing them in nonthreatening ways. What-ifs might include:
- “What if you are playing a game online and someone asks how old you are and where you live?”
- “What if someone sends you an email or instant message that makes fun of one of your classmates?”
- “What if you’re online and a message pops up saying ‘Click here to win a million dollars?’”
Ask your child to give you some what-if scenarios to answer. This is a fun way to have a conversation about staying safe and making smart decisions online.
6. Go on an online quest for the answer to one of life’s nagging questions.
Why is the sky blue? How can scientists be certain that no two snowflakes are alike? Do dogs think? Ask your child what’s keeping her up at night and set off on an online quest to find the answer together.
7. Sign an Internet safety contract.
With your child, draft an agreement about appropriate Internet use. Use exaggerated language to make it more fun (“I, [name], hereby agree to the following terms and limits of the use of the device known as “the computer” when it is connected to the network known as “the Internet”...). Sign and date the contract. Make two copies, one for you and one for your child to keep.
8. Record an instructional video and post it online to share with others.
Use a digital camera to record your child demonstrating the steps of a science experiment or recipe. Have her narrate each step while you zoom in on the action. Protect your child’s identity by focusing on her hands as she measures and mixes the ingredients. Upload your movie to a free video-sharing site, such as YouTube. You’ll need to create an account to post your video, but you’ll have the option of keeping the video private to all but those you invite to view it.
9. Challenge your child to find locations and identify landmarks on a map site such as Google Maps.
Younger children will enjoy identifying famous landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon, as well as less famous locations like their own neighborhood. Older children will enjoy the challenge of navigating satellite images of the earth and street-level views to find the places you name.
10. Have a video night in front of the computer.
Go on a video-sharing site and ask your child to show you clips of his favorite performing artists. Search for your favorite bands when you were your child’s age and share those videos with him. You may even find that you like one another’s music!