Every year I’m asked to speak to our school PTA about digital safety. Teaching digital safety to kids isn’t easy, especially when cell phones, laptops, and tablets provide convenience and connectivity that we need. We want our kids to be connected to us through their cell phones if they need us but that also means they’re connected to friends and their screens more often than we’d like them to be. It’s hard to live without our devices but their prevalence makes teaching digital safety more important than ever.
So what advice to do I give to parents year after year? Work collaboratively with your child instead of against them!
7 Favorite Resources for Teaching Digital Safety to Kids
As a mother of two high school aged teens who written about technology, parenting, and education since 2008, here are my top 5 tips:
- Stay current. Be knowledgeable about the issues affecting our kids and the tools they’re using.
- Set expectations but also model the behavior you expect
- Remember there’s a big difference between productive and passive screen time
- Create opportunities for conversations and seize teachable moments to work through issues
- Make decisions based on what’s right for your family
Conversations about digital safety don’t just happen through a single conversation. The conversations about digital safety you have with elementary age children change as they grow up into tweens and teens who we hope are becoming confident digital citizens.
Here are my favorite resources that can be helpful for continuing the conversation about technology in your homes.
Use Google’s free Digital Wellbeing 8 question assessment to reflect on your relationship with technology before you start a conversation with your kids. Google Digital Wellbeing provides tips and tools to help you achieve your personal sense of digital wellbeing. You can also have your kids take the interactive assessment!
Common Sense Media is a nonprofit is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology and aims to empower parents by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives. Common Sense Media is my go-to site for app, game, and entertainment reviews and they also have great age-appropriate articles about parenting in the digital age. Sligo is a Common Sense Media school, meaning teachers in every subject teach lessons about digital safety and citizenship Common Sense Media throughout the year.
The Smart Talk is a free online tool designed to help parents create conversations and work with their kids to set ground rules about technology via a personalized and customizable contract. I highly recommend using this to create technology rules collaboratively and revisiting the site to update them as your tween or teen gets older.
Bark is a robust monitoring tool to help you stay on top of your kids’ online activity and communication without invading their privacy. It provides high level alerts for cyberbullying, sexting, potential drug use, acts of violence, profanity, online predators, thoughts of suicide and depression, and so much more across 25 social media platforms, texting, and email accounts and also gives us parents the tools to talk about these very hard topics with our kids.
I like Bark because it’s comprehensive and easy to set up. If you’d like to know more about how it works and what kinds of things you’ll be notified of, you can read my full review of Bark here.
If you’re wondering about the data that Bark collects, their FAQs provided the following information:
We use SSL encryption on the website to present data to you and your children. All data analyzed is stored within an encrypted database, including backups. Security is a primary concern for us. You can rest easy knowing you and your children’s data is secure.
Bark is regularly $99/year for unlimited household devices or $14/month but get 20% off for the duration of service with the code SAVVYMAMA. As a Tech Savvy Mama reader, you can also try Bark Jr for free with the code SAVVYMAMA. Bark Jr. doesn’t have as many features as Bark but it’s a great starting point. If you’d like to upgrade to Bark Premium, the 20% off will be automatically applied for the life of your account with the code SAVVYMAMA. (Affiliate link)
Family Link from Google is a free way to set digital ground rules to help guide your kids as they learn, play, and explore on their mobile devices. It helps ensure your child is accessing good content, keep an eye on screen time, and also see where they are. Read my full review of Family Link here.
Life360 is a geolocation app that allows you to view your family members on a map, communicate with them, and receive alerts when they arrive at home, school, or work. It allows you to keep an eye on loved ones without requiring a response from them. Life360 has monthly and annual plans available on unlimited devices. I’ve used the premium version for our family for years but take advantage of the 7 day trial to make sure it’s the right fit for your family first. Life360 plans vary from $5-$20/month and I find that it’s worth every cent!
Created by Google, Be Internet Awesome is a fabulous tool for teaching digital safety so kids can explore the online world with confidence. It includes free materials and resources such as classroom curriculum, Interland an online game, as well as materials for parents to use at home with their kids to extend these lessons beyond the school day and into year-round learning. Read my full review of Google’s Be internet Awesome here.
With over 13 years of experience writing about technology and parenting, here are some posts I’ve written on this site and elsewhere that you might find useful:
- Talking to Kids About Digital Safety Topics:
- Considering giving your child a cell phone?
- Safety & Privacy:
- Screen Time:
- Social Media:
- Apps & Downloads:
- Reputation & Respect:
Affiliate links are included in this post.