Five stay smart tips for Safer Internet Day     

Cybersmart is celebrating international Safer Internet Day, Tuesday 10 February, with loads of resources for children, families and educators. A highlight is the virtual classroom where more than 30,000 children in 150 schools across Australia will participate in topics such as ‘Being a good bystander’.

The virtual classroom will build on research that shows peers can be influential when bullying occurs. Students will look at what this means in the online world. Realistic scenarios will encourage them to consider the impact of their actions when posting comments and photos online. Discussion on appropriate ways to stand against cyberbullying and polls and feedback sessions will allow children to participate.

Tips and strategies are particularly critical for outside school care where the boundaries of home rules, school rules and recreation start to blur.

ECA’s Digital Business Kit (DBK) has resources and videos to help early childhood services stay smart online. Module 2 has a factsheet and two tipsheets on managing risk and tips for educators and parents to help educators and families think through the issues.

Attitudes form early

Although programs for school-aged children are very welcome, online attitudes start to form before school. It’s easy to think smart online strategies don’t apply to children before school age.

Yet children of all ages move in a media-saturated world where internet-enabled devices are easily available.

Babies and young children are always learning from those around them. They are often bystanders when others use technology. When siblings, parents and other adults use interactive devices, young children pick up attitudes, mimic behaviours and see what, how and how often devices are used.

That’s why being smart online matters for every type of early education and care setting.

Five tips for educators and parents to start smart with young children

  1. Reflect on the values you convey in technology interactions that young children witness.
    • Are educators showing positive and educational uses of technology? Are devices kept only as treats and play or seen as one tool among many in the educator’s kit?
    • Is technology part of balanced and active family life? Do adults share digital device experiences with young children?
  2. Model responsible use and attitudes in your own technology use.
  3. Stay aware of babies’ and children’s access to interactive devices, set safeguards on devices and limits on their use.
    • Set locks and parent controls on your device.
    • When toddlers need distraction on a queue, rather than hand over your mobile have an old smart phone handy that is no longer internet connected but loaded with age-appropriate apps.
  4. Be active in shaping young children’s behaviours. Encourage safe and social behaviours between children around technology much as you encourage positive behaviours in other aspects of the growing child’s life.
  5. Take advantage of Cybersmart’s free resources including videos for children of all ages, interactive games, lesson plans, poster downloads and parent discussions at cybersmart.gov.au. To follow along with activities and the latest updates throughout the day, follow #SID2015 on Twitter, and like Cybersmart’s Facebook page.

Some ECA resources
ECA’s Digital Business Kit at www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-work/digital. Start with Module 2 for tips.

KidsMatter: What to do about cyber bullying at www.kidsmatter.edu.au

Every day learning about screen time and digital technologies, Every Day Learning series, 2010.

Dealing with bullying together: prevention and resolution ECA Research in Practice Series Vol 16., No. 1, 2009.

Keep watching the ECA website for updates and information including a soon-to-be-released publication in the Every Day Learning Series on technology, education practice and young children.

Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is Early Childhood Australia's (ECA) Strategic Communications Executive, working on projects that support ECA’s reputation as a trusted voice for young children, their families, educators and carers. Clare has been part of ECA's Learning Hub Team, managed ECA's Start Early. Respectful relationships for life project and ECA digital initiatives including the federally funded Digital Business Kit and Live Wires. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for a number of years, including for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government.

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