No compensation was received for this post. I was invited to the Club Penguin Headquarters by Disney and provided travel/accommodations. All thoughts/opinions remain solely that of the author.
We live in a digital world, fueled by technology that continues to advance at lightning speeds. So when I tell you that my son has been “online” (I’ll describe exactly what that means in a follow-up post) for over a year now, you probably don’t bat an eye. But if I told you that my husband, mother, and I have all had a hand in enabling him to be online, you might looking at me sideways…even disapprovingly.
It would be difficult, but definitely not impossible to shield my son from the internet. But as a parent, I’d rather educate my son so that he is equipped to handle any potential negative situations that may arise while engaging online.
I love this photo because what you can’t see is that this is a waterfall!
Last month, I spent a few days in Kelowna, BC with Club Penguin for their first-ever Club Penguin Media Summit. Along with getting a peek inside the igloo (both digitally and literally), we spent a couple of hours talking about a subject that is becoming increasingly important…Online Safety.
The question for parents is not “should my kids be online” but “how do I prepare my kids for a social world?” - Chris Heatherly, VP/GM Disney Interactive Worlds
Day 2 of the summit began with an online safety presentation by Ju’Riese Colon from NetSmartz, a program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Designed for children between the ages of 5 and 17, NetSmartz provides age-appropriate resources to teach children, parents, guardians, educators and law enforcement about online safety.
Two of the resounding themes throughout the summit were the emphasis on protecting personal information, and the sobering fact that anything and everything put online remains there forever…even if it is deleted. This became real as we watched a short clip of Amanda Todd’s final video before she committed suicide. After posting a single, unclothed photo of herself, she endured years of of bullying and even an attack where she was physically assaulted. Despite the fact that she moved schools and cities, the bullying and harassment followed her, leading to a downward spiral into depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eventually, suicide. Sadly, Amanda Todd’s story is not the only one.
NetSmartz is working to keep kids safe on and offline through a series of videos, online books, games, and activities designed to educate, entertain, engage, and empower children. And while these resources are valuable and effective, internet safety begins at home, which is why parents should be having conversations with their children at a young age. Even 5 and 6 year olds can benefit from modeling good “netiquette”
As parents, what can we do to help keep our kids safe online?
1. Begin early conversations about online safety using vocabulary/language that is meaningful to children based on their age
2. Educate children about the importance of keeping their personal information safe (name, address, phone number, passwords)
3. Keep the lines of communication open and emphasize the importance of telling a parent/caregiver if any online interaction makes him/her feel sad, scared, or confused
4. Be active and involved with your children as they spend time online. Know the sites they spend time on and the people they are talking to.
5. Establish limits. This could include limits on the amount of time a child spends online, which websites they are visiting online, or where they access the internet (at home in a central location v. on their phone at a friend’s house).
There is a wealth of information regarding online safety on the NetSmartz website. If you’re not sure where to begin, I recommend checking out the section on Internet Safety which offers discussion starters and tips.
If you’re wondering about the relationship between Club Penguin and NetSmartz, Club Penguin is a supporter of the organization and the safety education resources they offer parents, caregivers, teachers, and children.
Images: NetSmartz unless noted.