More than three-quarters of school-aged kids in the United States use the internet every week. Much of that online time, for seventy-nine percent of kids, is spent on a smartphone. Much of that time is also spent at school. Kids curriculum is increasingly web-based and school is even issuing computers to kids younger and younger. The internet has long been a place for kids and teenagers to find entertainment and now with the necessity for online activity for school work screen time and global communication among our young ones is on the rise. This has been a cause for concern among parents, teachers, and school administrators alike. Google wants to help parents, teachers, and kids understand what a healthy attitude towards internet activity looks like. While at CES I was able to hear representatives from Google explain Be Internet Awesome and how it was developed. I thought it would be a great resource for parents and teachers alike.
“Kids can play their way to being Internet Awesome with Interland, an online adventure that puts the key lessons of digital safety into hands-on practice with four challenging games.” – beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com
Interland is a gamified way of teaching kids internet safety and digital citizenship. You make your way through different levels that focus on different categories of your online life. You “report” cyberbullies and share kind words with online “friends.” The game is split into zones, Reality River is where you learn to recognize what’s real and what’s fake online, “Mindful Mountain” is where you learn how to think before you share online, “Tower of Treasure” will teach you how to secure your online activity with strong passwords and secure behavior, and finally “Kind Kingdom” is where you’re able to report those cyberbullies and speak kindly to friends you find online.
The games are fun and the characters are silly. The questions seem to be common sense but I know adults who, based on their social media behavior, probably wouldn’t score 10 out of 10. These games have good graphics and audio and they’re a simple and fun way to introduce your kids or students to proper online behavior.
The 5 part Be Internet Awesome curriculum is made for parents or educators to help kids go even deeper in their understanding of how to be secure, kind, and mindful when on the internet. By having kids analyze mock social media feeds and behavior they get a chance to think about what they learn about a person based on what they post online. Receiving fake phishing and spam messages allow kids to see what those messages look like and identify and report them easily. Recognizing bullies and how to report them is taught through group activities and clear, understandable definitions. Finally, the free 48 page PDF Curriculum, emphasizes the importance of finding an adult and talking about what they’ve experienced online.
Finally, the pledge allows kids, teachers, and parents to summarize and agree to their stance on digital citizenship. This allows parents and teachers to get the whole family or class on the same page and hold each other accountable. A pledge is a good way to reemphasize what has been learned and highlight the importance of their commitment to be the best version of themselves online that they can be.
What Parents Should Know
I recommend you use this game and curriculum in your home if you haven’t already. Help your kids understand the dangers and concerns with the amount of time they spend online and encourage them to use their time as wisely as possible. Google has created a helpful and free tool for you as a parent or teacher to use and download as often as you need to. I say take advantage of it. If your family, like ours, has some specific rules about how you use the internet, interject them into this curriculum, using Google’s offering as a foundation for your internet safety plan and contract. Our kids will be spending more and more time on the internet as they grow. It’s important that their parents first, model proper citizenship for them, and second, take advantage of whatever resources we can to teach them how to treat themselves, their information, and others with respect on the internet.