Internet Safety! Horrors! Where do we begin?

Recently, I noticed a few basic disconnects when it comes to elementary school-aged children and teaching Internet Safety basics. There’s an information gap between school and home. Most schools now have a computer class. The computer teachers I spoke with talk about Internet Safety in class. But where is there a need to actually practice Internet Safety? In the home, of course. Who is the teacher in the home? The parent, of course.

Many parents are tech savvy but many more are not and it’s created a generation gap of sorts. It may close as younger parents come up the ranks but in the meantime, it’s a dangerous gap. Although it’s a big scary subject, it can be manageable with the right tools and good basic information, especially if parents and schools communicate.

In preparation for a parent workshop, I came across this “one-stop shopping” resource: Net Cetera. Their downloadable tools are awesome and I also ordered the booklet for several schools to share with parents at workshops and to send home to parents who couldn’t attend. It’s not People Magazine but it’s an easy read. It’s free and I’ve been able to order 500 at a time.

Parenting is so crammed with things we should do: immunizations, reading, test scores, sports, hygiene, cleaning, play dates, haircuts, feeding, clothes buying, washing and folding. (Who am I kidding? The folding doesn’t actually get done in my house but you get the drift.) Sometimes it’s too much in a day to do but unfortunately, just like teaching our kids “stranger danger,” Internet Safety is on the “must do” list.

I’ve done a little work for you. Here’s a sample letter that can be sent home from school with the Net Cetera booklet and bookmark. It can be signed by the principal, assistant principal, computer teacher or PTA President. It’s a start to closing the gap in a simple, effective way.

Dear Parent,

A brand new year is a good time to set priorities and to focus on all the good things we want to achieve for our children and ourselves.

In that spirit, we are sending home this booklet from Net Cetera, which is full of information and tips regarding online safety.
As your children get older, their dependence on technology for help with schoolwork and connecting with friends becomes stronger. In most cases, the Internet is a fantastic resource.

Realistically, though, we can’t be 100% comfortable with all it has to offer. For example, statistically, one out of four children are bullied online. There’s also the issue of “digital literacy,” predators and privacy issues. In other words, you can’t believe everything you read – or trust everyone you meet — on the Internet. Our children will be safer and happier if we take the time to be informed. Simple tips, such as where you place the computer or rules on cell phone usage, will help protect them and help you sleep better at night, too.

Students at (name of school) learn about Internet Safety issues in computer class. Since the majority of their computer and cell phone time is outside of the classroom, we want to ensure you have the proper information to reinforce these lessons at home.

We hope you find this booklet helpful. It doesn’t take long to read but it may save you hours of worry.

Sincerely,

(Principal, Parent Coordinator, PTA President, or Computer Teacher)

It’s amazing what can come from one little letter bridging the most important teachers in a child’s technology driven life.

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