It’s 2016 and unless you live under a rock, you’re aware of the impact that computers, smart phones, tablets, and other Internet accessible devices have on modern day life. The homeschool community is just as vulnerable to anyone else when it comes to the repercussions of the Internet Age.  And believe it or not, there are already generations of children who cannot envision what life was like before the Internet.  Children now grow up watching their family members navigate the world from devices in the comfort of their homes.  Yet because of this false sense of security that is generated, they are unfortunately oblivious to many of the dangers that exist online.  This danger comes in the form of spammers, hackers, scammers and predators who actively work to harm unaware people. And we want to help all families understand online safety for kids. 

Every parent, whether homeschooling or not, needs to decide the appropriate age for allowing their children to access the Internet.  This is a complex decision because it involves several considerations, including your child’s age and your child’s maturity.  You also need to assess what the intentions are for accessing the Internet in the first place. Is it for a school project?  Is it simply out of curiosity?  Obviously the best way to protect your children from Internet dangers is by keeping them away from it altogether.  But oftentimes that is not an option, so the following tips and resources will work to keep them safe.

1. Keep the lines of communication open. 

Talk and explain the dangers of the internet to your children.  Homeschooled children need to know about cyber-bullying, computer viruses, and stranger danger. You can teach Internet safety to both young children and teenagers.  They will consequently learn the importance of Internet safety, and you can supplement their knowledge with age-appropriate tips that will help them navigate their computer time appropriately.  

Some of the tips you might want to include are: never give out personal information like addresses or telephone numbers, never agree to meet someone in person who was met online, never give out passwords to anyone, never download or install software without parental approval, and never open email from a stranger, especially if it has an attachment.  Each family will have its own way of implementing some or all of these tips, but the important point is that your children learn to think critically about how the Internet is both a powerful and a precarious world to navigate.

2. Consider attending Safer Internet Day 2016.

This online event takes place on February 9th, 2016, and was coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre.  The special event sees that hundreds of organizations get involved to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children all over the world.  

Have a look at K-12 Digital Citizenship Education.  
This site is loaded with curriculum materials that are designed to empower children of various ages to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world. 

3. Check out Digital Compass and Digital Bytes.  

Digital Compass is a great site for children to learn the fundamentals of digital citizenship.  It hosts a range of choose-your-own-adventure interactive experiences geared toward grades 6-9. Your children can explore digital dilemmas, make good or bad decisions and try out possible solutions through stories and mini-games – all without risking real-world consequences.  Digital Bytes is a website dedicated to teaching children how to explore and influence the digital world they live in.

5. Have a look at some safe YouTube channels.

There are so many options available on YouTube that it can be tough to know what’s good. Here are a couple that we have enjoyed. Vsauce is a fun way to explore science, just note that the beginning of the Earth is not based on a Christian basis. Smarter Every Day looks at science and actually does all of the experiments in front of the camera. Sixty Symbols shares information on Physics, the planets, and Engineering, giving live footage to their knowledge and actions.  And if you would like an even more comprehensive list of safe YouTube channels, try The Wired Homeschooler’s article entitled “13 YouTube Channels Every Homeschooler Should Watch.”

We want online safety for kids to be a top priority for every family, so that each child can enjoy the many benefits of technology in a safe manner. Want more tips?  Follow our Blog and Facebook page to get the most recent homeschooling help information!