As we’re spending more and more time online with our learners, we know this increased use of technology can be a double edged sword. We want to encourage a natural curiosity for computers and maintain boundaries for our learners, which is key for their development.
There are dozens of online resources on the topic of online safety for kids, including NetSmartz and Connect Safely. We reviewed their expert advice and came up with some solutions for encouraging K-8 students to explore technology while keeping an eye on online safety as part of our ongoing series on Computer Science and Coding.
Set ground rules: Have a conversation with your learners about your rules for time spent using screens. Establish an open dialogue and clear expectations for acceptable use, considering the following:
• What websites are OK for your learner to visit? What’s off-limits? When they are online, are there ways for them to engage with educational topics?
• What other activities have to be done before screens are allowed? Chores, homework or outside playtime, for example.
Learn the tools: Know which websites and software your students are using and learn their features. Try not to let your learner be the one explaining safety features to you and think about your approach for:
• How will you keep track of your learner’s online activity? What security features can you use to monitor their safety?
• How can you make screen time together time? What can you do to engage with the games and websites your student uses?
Keep an eye out: Be alert while your students are online and come up with a plan for mistakes and missteps, being mindful of:
• Can you easily see your learner’s workspace when they’re online?
• Is your student showing any signs of too much screen time? The Center for Mental Wellness has a list of signs to watch for to help be sure your learner isn’t overstimulated by the amount of time they spend online.
• Check in, regularly, for things you may not see: Who did your learners interact with online today? What’s their favorite way to spend time online?
We’d love to hear from you about the questions and curiosities you have about bringing these topics to your classroom and home. If there are ways you’ve succeeded or struggled to engage your learners about online safety and Computer Science, let us know in the comments below!