With summer winding down, youth have started returning to school and looking forward to the new academic year! New friends, new classes, new teachers, and new opportunities.
While this is an exciting time, it’s also an excellent time to talk with youth about safety. Every school year presents an opportunity to learn from the past and create healthy habits for the future.
iRespect&Protect’s interactive tools and resources can help equip parents, caregivers, teachers, and other adults with ways we can all help youth stay safe online AND offline.
Have you ever wondered if you have an appropriate level of attachment to your cell phone, devices, or screen time? Are you controlling your time on your device or is it controlling you? We encourage everyone—adults and youth alike—to take our Device Control Quiz to think about your own habits.
Kids pay attention to everything around them, and they pick up on how adults interact with technology. It’s important to pay attention to our relationship with technology and consider how our own choices impact the youth in our lives. If you’re looking for some positive tips, our Model This, Here’s Why worksheet provides 3 ways you can model healthy digital choices when you are on your cell phone or social media.
As kids are going back to school, we can also take this opportunity to revisit previous conversations and start new ones about body safety, boundaries, healthy choices, online habits, self-worth, and more.
Use our Conversation Starters to introduce these important safety topics! You can print out these cards and start a conversation during a car ride, family dinner, or before bed. You can even get creative and make a fun game out of it. Start talking early and keep the conversations going as kids grow older.
Communication is one of the biggest protective factors against child abuse. These conversations don’t need to be scary or stressful. Sometimes we skip a crucial safety talk because it makes us uncomfortable. But you’ve probably already had many safety talks with your child—like wearing a bicycle helmet, buckling your seatbelt, or washing your hands after going to the bathroom.
By having open and honest communication, we’re building trust, developing a deeper bond, and letting children know they can come to us whenever there is an issue. We want to be proactive, not reactive.
Since we cannot be with our kids every hour of every day, it’s essential to explain the qualities of safe adults and help them identify who they can turn to in times of need. Check out our How To Tell If Someone Is Safe worksheets, for children younger than 10 yrs and children older than 10 years. This lesson also includes a fun drawing exercise for younger kids! For older youth, we also have a How To Talk About Hard Topics worksheet to help them practice talking about a mistake, question, or a problem.
We can also support youth by focusing on our self-worth. We all have 100% worth with our own unique talents and traits, and we are all deserving of our hopes and dreams. The reason we need to focus on our self-worth is that it is constant and unchanging. In contrast, our self-esteem faces constant challenges every day. The time we spend on social media and devices feed into those challenges.
We can help youth understand they are worthy, no matter what. Self-worth doesn’t change regardless of the circumstances people may find themselves in or the choices they make.
For teens, you can use our Love Isn’t A Transaction worksheet to remind youth that nobody should ever feel that they have to do anything to be liked or loved. There is something incredibly special about being yourself, and the right people will like and love you just for who you are. Our Posting On Social Media worksheet can also help teens consider their choices and possible consequences when it comes to posting on social media.
Before you post, THINK…
T: Is It True?
H: Is It Helpful?
I: Is It Inspiring?
N: Is It Necessary?
K: Is It Kind?
Next time you are on your device or social media, take a moment to pause. Ask yourself how you are feeling about your self-worth and how you interact with technology. Have this conversation with your children, with young people in your lives who are navigating the pressures of growing up in a digital world.
For parents and caregivers, it can be overwhelming trying to stay on top of the ever-evolving digital landscape. But don’t worry, we can help! Check out our Apps To Be Aware Of (updated in July 2022)!
There are potential dangers lurking online, but that doesn’t mean you need to prohibit everything. Our recommendation is for a parent or caregiver to download any app, game, or platform that their child wants so you can learn how to use it. Understanding how it works helps us know what risks to look out for and how we can support kids. When you have these discussions, you should establish basic online expectations and reinforce what’s right and wrong. You’re building a foundation that educates youth about what risks to avoid so that they can make healthy choices and benefit from the positive aspects of our digital world.
We also recommend you sit down as a family to create a Custom Digital Media Contract.
Are there specific days and times you can agree not to use your cell phone, tablet, or other device? How about different family activities you can do each week to instill balance and spend time together away from technology? You can write these ideas into your family media contract!
One contract or family decision isn’t better than another, it’s about what works for your family. The big point of this practice is that modeling is the best contract! Each contract is only as good as the relationships that bind it. When we include kids in the process of creating a contract, they feel more invested and they’re more likely to follow the rules you establish together. If you’re looking for ideas to incorporate in your own family media contract, check out our online safety tips below…
Online Safety Tips for Youth:
- Never give out personal identifying information, including: date of birth, home address, school name, telephone number.
- Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening or if they make you feel uncomfortable.
- Create strong, secure passwords and don’t share them—even with friends you may trust.
- Be sure someone is known and trusted before “friending” them.
- Remember people online may not be who they seem.
- Keep phones out of the bedroom after bedtime.
Online Safety Tips for Parents/Caregivers:
- Get to know the services your child uses and learn how to use privacy controls!
- Get to know your teen’s online friends just as you would their other friends (those they communicate with regularly).
- Check your devices’ privacy settings and be transparent if you implement parental controls.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines.
- Establish boundaries and expectations.
We encourage you to explore the interactive tools and resources we have for younger children, teens, parents and caregivers. By educating ourselves and our children, we’re strengthening our relationships and discovering new ways to support youth to help keep them safe online AND offline.
Technology isn’t going anywhere so let’s learn how to make it a happy, productive part of our lives!