“read before you click”

Keep in mind the principle that even if it is not designed for children, it can be used by them.

Use the physical world as a metaphor this will help them better understand the digital world and create a safer internet for all.

The online world has as many risks as opportunities. Safer Internet Day, supported by the European Commission, stands as a global initiative to raise awareness about online safety, foster digital literacy, and encourage responsible use of technologies by children, teenagers and families. Every year in February, various organisations such as governments, NGOs, industry leaders, educators and researchers unite to identify challenges, share the “state of the art” and develop strategies for a safer digital environment.

Our influence on children’s digital lives goes far beyond parental controls or screen time limits. We have the opportunity to establish a safer internet at home that prioritises children’s experience and to be their main influencers. By actively participating in their digital journey from an early age, we build trust, empower children with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the complexities of the online world, safely.

How to equip children for the internet?

Even if parents aren’t digital experts, they are not starting from scratch; their everyday user knowledge becomes a foundation for shared learning and an opportunity to improve their digital awareness and literacy and strengthening family bonds, build trust and help children sit in the driver seat of their technology experience.

Here are some practical topics for parents to champion a child-first online approach at home:

Identity, Privacy and Digital Agency

It’s important to acknowledge that digital identity deserves as much care and consideration as offline identity. Avoid divulging personal information, share photos without identifying children or their faces and always follow the principle of “read before you click”. Protect yourself by not sharing passwords, updating software regularly and being careful when downloading and uploading files or installing apps.

Data security and child protection policies

We are surrounded by smart devices so check the security and privacy settings of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), especially the Internet of Toys meaning by “intelligent” hybrid creatures such as soft toys, dolls, games, tablets, or other types of toys that can be controlled by an internet connection. Keep in mind the principle that even if it is not designed for children, it can be used by them.
You can also incorporate reputable security features on devices such as Child Safe VPNs that mask your home IP address to ensure no one will track your child data and ultimately know where you live.

Cyberbullying e deepfake

Make sure they know how to distinguish between information and advertising, pointing out that not everything is true and not everyone is who they say they are. Reinforce the rule of avoiding communicating with strangers, as in the physical world, and pay special attention to how they manage online friendships.
Remember the importance of locking devices after use and always logging out of all accounts. Debate about image manipulation, fake accounts and fake news. Talk about the dangers of deepfake, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that superimposes real faces and voices to create fake videos and lead viewers to click and interact. Remember this can involve the image of public figures, celebrities or even one’s own image!
Stimulate an inquisitive mindset and critical analysis and encourage them to deconstruct the online information.

Age-appropriate content filtering

Prefer a kid-safe browser and search engines designed specifically for children, that restrict inappropriate content and preferably without advertising. Be aware that this doesn’t replace the need for curation on quality content. Always check the age ratings of services your child has access to and remember 16 is the minimum age for using social networks (Art. 8 GDPR).

Digital footprint and digital citizenship

Highlight that every online action leaves an irreversible mark. Consider your own use of social media, protect not only your identity, but especially the one of the children and their friends. Images can reveal a lot of sensitive information, such as location hints or even the name of the school on uniforms. Parents are role models for online behaviour. Educate about the importance of consent when capturing and using images and the use of one’s own image by oneself or others. Promoting respect for oneself and others will help children to also respect the space of their peers.

Conclusion:

A child-first internet begins with parental commitment and informed decision-making. Inspire positive online usage, build digital resilience at your home, in an attentive way. Support children’s technological development with an open dialogue and non-judgmental. Use the physical world as a metaphor this will help them better understand the digital world and create a safer internet for all.

Links:
https://www.betterinternetforkids.eu
https://www.saferinternetday.org
and in our Resources page