As our students start to discover tools that allow them to connect with each other, it is important that we continue to monitor and support them. It is a new world they are excited to explore. Just like we supervise and monitor our children in the “real world” so to must we monitor their online connections.
Now that my students have starting using tools like NowComment and Google Docs, they are discovering that they can communicate with each other outside of school. In class, I keep an “eye” on what they write and post; often I need to intervene and remind them how to be responsible and respectful. It really is no different than being present while they play on recess.
For this reason, I don’t want to discourage parents from letting their children discover these ways to connect and communicate online, but rather be present and watchful just like you would if you took your child to a park or invited another child over for a play date. Children need our guidance and support as they make mistakes in secure online environments just like they do when they interact “live”. They are eventually going to discover this world so letting them discover it with your guidance is important.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure the forum they use is secure and safe. School accounts are heavily protected, but be sure to check with your child’s teacher about any tools they have used in class.
- Reinforce safety and security. If setting up an account with your child to a site where they can play games and such, be sure your child understands how they should never use their full name. First names only and nicknames are even better.
- Make sure your child knows you want to see who they are communicating with and what is being communicated. Tell them this is so you can keep them safe just like you would if you took them somewhere. In fact, when they go online, they are leaving your home and exploring out into the digital community.
- Help your child remember to communicate digitally as they would in person, with some modifications. Facial expressions, body language and tone are all lost in digital translation. Here’s a great video clip to demonstrate this: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/mindful-messaging
With supervision, you can give your child a solid foundation for safe and responsible internet use.