Digital kids for better tomorrow

Express News Service

Digital safety is no child’s play. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 95 per cent of US teens between 13 and 17 report having access to a smartphone. Another study on children’s engagement with screens revealed that one-in-five parents say their kids aged 12 or below own a digital device. That’s why cyber activists are crying hoarse about the need to turn these little digital natives into good digital citizens.

Decoding Digital citizenship
Digital Citizenship is about the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses an electronic device. Just as children need hygiene IRL, they need online hygiene to be better digital citizens. From etiquette to privacy, good digital citizenship teaches them basics of digital values, such as:
● Digitally disconnecting and spending time with loved ones
● Applying real-world behaviour in the digital world too
● Examining the credibility and authenticity of sources of online information
● Avoiding suspicious emails, websites, and advertisements that could lead to data theft
● Reviewing privacy settings and understanding what to share with whom

The checklist
In a digital world, it helps to train kids to be safe online, rather than ban the use of internet. According to Safe Sitter, a US-based non-profit that teaches children safety skills when they are home alone, being a good citizen is about:
● Practising safety routines to protect themselves (using location tags carefully, using privacy settings to shield unwanted attention)
● Treating others with respect (disagree without being abusive) etc.

Digital dignity
While the anonymity that the internet offers can help one express their thoughts freely, it also leads to using the same to bully others, steal data or post misleading information. A respectful digital citizen is one who:
● Follows the rules of a website
● Is aware that not everyone has equal access to the internet
● Protects private information for themselves and others
● Respects themselves and others
● Stands up to cyberbullying

Life ‘fun’damentals
How does one teach kids? Giving them role-play scenarios is a good start. Ask your child: Someone you don’t know just requested to be your friend online. He looks your age and is from a different school. Do you accept the request? Then, explain the resultant scenarios based on their answers. Gamification is another way of handholding them into safer online spaces.

Interland, part of Google’s Be Internet Awesome initiative, is an adventure-rich game, in which kids help their fellow internauts combat badly behaved hackers, phishers and bullies by practising the skills they need to be good digital citizens.

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