Today is Safer Internet Day, celebrated around the world every February to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people.
As a blogger, I spend a lot of time online. I’m very aware that while anyone can be vulnerable to online exploitation and bullying, children are especially vulnerable, and a lot sooner than we like to think. That’s why I support initiatives like Safer Internet Day and #PinkShirtPromise, a national campaign inspiring Canadians to join the movement to end bullying, launching today and ending with Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, February 24.
My kids are three and almost six, so they’re rarely online and never without close supervision, but I know it will only be a few short years before they start accessing online resources for school and probably for gaming too. So the topic of internet safety is definitely on my radar. I want to make sure that I’m laying the ground work now before there’s the possibility of a problem.
How Parents Can Help Keep Kids Safe Online
The most important thing we can do to keep our kids safe online is to talk to them about it. Before they ever venture online, have a discussion about the pros and cons of the internet. Sure there’s a seemingly never ending supply of fun games, information, and useful resources online, but there are also so many things that are not suitable for children – or most adults for that matter! Discuss what they should do if they stumble onto inappropriate material that makes them feel uncomfortable. (Answer: walk away and tell a trusted adult.)
Talk to your children about the importance of keeping all their personal information private, and make sure they understand that it could be anyone behind that screen. Remind them that texts, emails, posts, pictures, and videos posted online or shared with other people are permanent.
Talk to them about what to do if someone is intimidating or harassing them via email or online. Cyberbullying includes behaviours like emailing or texting abusive or threatening messages, posting embarrassing messages/photos/videos online and on social media, and sending their personal or embarrassing information to other people. Cyberbullying is particularly scary to me because kids can now be victimized any time and any place, even when we think they’re safe at home. The most important thing is that they know to come to you for help if they are being bullied.
When kids do go online, they require close supervision as they’re learning and practicing how to stay safe. Make sure you’re familiar with the games or apps that your kids are using and look for games that allow you to control how or who your child chats with. Enable parental controls wherever possible to create age-appropriate limits for their safety, and make sure you’re familiar with all the wifi-enabled devices your child has access to. It’s not just laptops and tablets you need to supervise; many parents are unaware that game consoles, handheld gaming devices, inactive cell phones, smart TVs, e-readers, and digital players can all be used to access the internet too.
Join the Safer Internet Day conversation and help raise awareness of the importance of online safety using the hashtags #SID2016 and #Up2Us.
Make Your #PinkShirtPromise to Help End Bullying
Pink Shirt Promise kicks off today and runs until Pink Shirt Day on February 24. For the second year in a row, Shaw Communications and its key partners are teaming up in support of the Pink Shirt Promise Campaign – a national campaign aimed at ending bullying and cyberbullying across Canada.
“Bullying is destructive, emotionally damaging, and, in some cases, deadly, and no child should have to suffer from its harmful and negative effects,” said Brad Shaw, Chief Executive Officer, Shaw Communications Inc. “Shaw’s #PinkShirtPromise campaign is a powerful initiative that gives us the ability to work closely with our partners to create safer environments for children and youth – whether at school, at home, or online.”
Between February 9 and 24, Shaw is encouraging Canadians to work toward ending bullying by sharing their personal pledges on social media using the hashtag #PinkShirtPromise. Alternatively, participants can also take a photo of themselves with a friend making a pinky promise to help stop bullying, using the hashtag #PinkyPromise. Nominate three friends to do the same!
Win an ET Canada Experience!
Post your promise using the hashtag #PinkShirtPromise on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you could win an all expense paid trip to Toronto to appear on ET Canada!
All residents of Canada (excluding Quebec) who submit a written promise about what they will do to end bullying via social media by Wednesday, February 24, 2016, will be eligible to be entered into a draw for a chance to win the Grand Prize of a flight for two to Toronto, two nights hotel accommodation, an Entertainment Tonight Canada Experience and $1,500 dollar shopping spree to an Ivanhoe Cambridge mall.
To support #PinkShirtPromise and enable participants to more easily post and share their promises, Shaw will open up its Shaw Go WiFi Guest Network, with access to 75,000 active hotspots across the country, on Pink Shirt Day. Shaw Internet subscribers already have access to the Shaw Go WiFi service; others can access the Guest Network by searching for available WiFi connections on their devices and selecting ‘ShawGuest’ from the list of available options. A full list of locations is available at www.shaw.ca/wifi or by downloading the Shaw Go WiFi Finder app.
Visit Pink Shirt Promise to learn more about this campaign and to find full contest rules and regulations. Make your #PinkShirtPromise today!
How do you keep your kids safe from bullying in person and online? What’s your #PinkShirtPromise?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation. Nevertheless, all opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.