Back when I was a student in elementary school, the internet didn’t really exist for me. In fact it wasn’t until I was in high school in the 90’s that I took any notice of it. Nowadays however, kids grow up with the internet. My three-year old loves watching videos and playing games on NickJr.com or DisneyJr.com. My 2nd grader is obsessed with YouTube. In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to escape the internet, and while instant world-wide access to practically anything you can think of has it’s upsides, it very definitely has its downsides as well.
Elementary-age kids are so very trusting, especially of adults. They count on us to take care of them and protect them and they look up to us. But not all adults can be trusted. It is a very sad fact of life that there are adults out there who prey on young children and want to harm them. And the internet can make it a lot easier for those types of adults to find victims. So it really is never too early to start teaching kids about internet safety. After all, stranger danger doesn’t just apply to those strangers you see out in the real world.
I found two very good websites with lots of resources for teaching young kids about internet safety. The first is BrainPOP Jr. I’ve linked here to an excellent video about what to do if someone you don’t know tries to contact you on the internet, and what kind of information you should never give out online, especially to a stranger. There are also games and activities to help the message sink in to impressionable young minds. The page linked to is free, but I believe BrainPOP is an online education tool and they do have a subscription service with lots of other activities in many other subjects. The second website is here and is part of kids.gov, which also has lots of information and activities on a wide-variety of subjects including internet safety, grouped by ages. The page linked to has games and videos that teach online safety for kids age K-5.
I think it’s important to remember that the internet is just a tool, much like a car is. You would never let your child drive your car without making sure he or she knew how to drive it safely and properly, and the internet should be no different. Let’s keep our kiddos safe out there on the world wide web!