I find it fascinating the way children are using technology to engage in digital classrooms from a young age. When I taught 3rd grade, the world of online learning was just getting started, and I had the chance to implement some awesome platforms in my own classroom.
There was a bit of resistance from some of the parents. They wanted to “shield” their children from the dangers of the world wide web. At the end of the day, though, I believe that children need to be provided with ways to navigate the interwebs safely. Afterall, we teach them safety and provide protection in the REAL world!
Kids born today are exposed to technology immediately. We use our cell phones to snap pictures of them in the hospital, seconds after birth, and upload them instantly. Many parents create Facebook pages for their children at birth with the intention of handing the reigns over when their kids come of age. Technology is an integral part of life for children, and we need to safely foster it.
I've eagerly welcomed technology into my kids' lives, teaching them how to navigate the latest platforms as soon as they could make sense of a keypad. Nate and I have shared concern about the state of education today. We're worried about how children are being taught in classrooms, but I've always held that parents need to supplement that environment with online and at-home programs catered to their own child's learning style.
Some of the online learning options do give me pause simply because you don't know where they'll lead. I know parents who unleash their kids on YouTube and let them hop from video to video exploring their interests. That's all well and good until an Elmo video leads to a Katy Perry interview, which segues into Russell Brand. This bizarro rabbit hole went from wholesome to unsafe in a hurry! There are better, safer options out there for any parent looking to get their kid involved in digital classrooms.
Here are my tips to help keep your children safe in the world of digital classrooms:
- If you're looking to go entirely online, research accredited programs funded by your state.
- For general web browsing consider a monitored, kid-friendly browser like KidZui.
- Secure their session. Protecting children from dangers within the web browser is a good idea, but using a free VPN service like Hotspot Shield will also shield your data over WiFi connections. That way, hackers can't intercept key strokes and other data.
- Encourage teachers to include digital classroom resources like Edmodo in their curriculum.
- Find supplemental activities for independent learning through safe sites like Scholastic for older children or KneeBouncers for babies and toddlers. They don't offer online interaction, but these self-guided programs can be a good way to start exploring the web.
- Try a paid, moderated interaction program like Club Penguin for peace of mind in an environment where professionals watch the stream to ensure safety.
- Develop a strong password. Many sites your child visits will require logins for safety, and it's helpful to teach them early about creating a good password with numbers, special characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters.
- Teach children boundaries. Inform them about internet prowlers and let them know that personal information shouldn't be shared online.
- Get to know the online community. Browse with your child, reading messages on sites that they frequent. Familiarize yourself with forums and moderators in the digital classroom.
- Set limits. Children need to maintain a balance of time online and off to keep a healthy perspective and create a real-world frame for the lessons that they're learning online.
Want to learn more about Hotspot Shield? You can provide a better, safer online experience for your kids using their FREE VPN service to protect your family's privacy. Connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and their very ownHotspot Shield blog.