As the Internet has grown, online safety has become more complex. Threats to kids include stranger danger, cyber bullying, pornography, privacy invasion, and even harm to our computers via viruses and malware. The best way to teach our children is to set firm ground rules, and make sure that they step away from the computer and come to a parent or other trusted grownup if something online makes them uncomfortable.
Chatdanger is a British site produced by Childnet International, dedicated to spreading information about the "potential dangers on interactive services online like chat, IM, online games, email and on mobiles." Their site is divided into sections for each of these media, where advice and personal, real-life stories illustrate the importance of knowing the danger signs and following basic safety rules. "Never reply to text messages from people you don't know. This includes spam."
The Internet Keep Safe Coalition is a partnership of community leaders from politics, law enforcement and education, and technology companies such as Google, Symantec, YouTube and AOL. Through the adventures of Faux Pax the cat, a safety mascot, kids learn about the dangers of downloading, dealing with cyber-bullying, and basic Internet safety rules. In addition to games, videos, and printable coloring pages, there are downloadable books in PPT format and curriculum materials.
Web Wise Kids sells detective-style games based on real-life criminal cases, that can be used at home or in a classroom to engage students in the subject of Internet safety. They also have a free section that is compelling enough to warrant inclusion in my picks. Be sure to watch Katie's Story on video. She was fifteen when she met a twenty-two year old man in an Internet chat room. Katie now volunteers for Web Wise Kids, as she "shares her powerful first-hand testimony with other young teens and parents to let them know that what happened to her and her family can also happen to them."
With separate sections for teens, kids, parents, educators, and law enforcement, NetSmartz is a public-private partnership that teaches three basic online safety rules. "1) I will tell an adult I trust if anything makes me feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. 2) I will ask my parents or guardian before sharing my personal information. 3) I won't meet in person with anyone I have first 'met' online." The lessons are imparted with games, interactive stories, and video.
iSafe is a publisher of media literacy curriculum, and xBlock is a teen mentor program that gives students a chance to learn online safety and teach it to their peers and parents. Signing up is free, and the mentor training is all done online. After taking the online class, iMentors can sponsor Internet safety events at schools in their neighborhood, using free materials provided by iSafe.