How to handle internet safety and cyberbullying with kids

Local educators share their experiences and favorite resources to help kids safely navigate the digital world.

child using laptop at home. School girl learning with computer indoor.
© mashiki, Adobe Stock

Kids are using the internet earlier than ever before, but are they prepared to be responsible citizens of the digital world?

“When I taught third grade, a parent told me I needed to address a Facebook issue,” recalls educator Megan Keane of Fairfax. “At which point, I kindly reminded her that the minimum age for Facebook was 13.”

Now many school systems are teaching internet safety and digital citizenship as part of the curriculum.

Brittany Brown, a middle school teacher in Springfield, says, “With the 21st century skills we’re teaching our students, educating them on the importance of digital citizenship has become paramount. With the help of my school counsel teams, I now incorporate regular lessons that teach students about their digital footprint and the responsibility that comes with access to the digital world.”

Cyberbullying also continues to be a hot topic for school systems to address. In fact, the Broadband Data Improvement Act now requires schools to instruct students about the dangers of cyberbullying.

Leigh Ashburst, an elementary school counselor in Fairfax County says, “As young as elementary school, we teach lessons specifically targeted at bullying, harassment and cyberbullying. We talk to students about how to identify cyberbullying, how to prevent it and what the consequences are.”

Parents can also do their part to keep their children safe online. Besides setting clear guidelines and monitoring a child’s online activity, parents should explicitly teach their children how to cautiously explore the digital world.

Here, educators share their favorite resources for teaching kids about internet safety and the dangers of cyberbullying:

Common Sense Media
This website, known for its trusted movie and book reviews, also has a large internet safety resource section that includes videos about cyberbullying, tips for dealing with haters and trolls, social media etiquette and how to avoid digital drama. There are also interactive games for kids that cover online tracking and how decisions made online can impact relationships in the real world. Articles and videos can be sorted by age and by topic.

Connect Safely
Here, users will find web safety guides for educators, parents and seniors. The video section contains PSAs about The Webs, a retro family dealing with modern issues. The entertaining web series educates kids and teens about topics such as cyberbullying, internet addiction and how a post can haunt someone forever.

Netsmartz Workshop
As an extension of the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, this Netzsmartz Workshop features videos of real-life teens who have been victimized online. The site also addresses issues such as cyberbullying, safe social networking and privacy in online gaming. Many of the resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Safekids is one of the oldest and most comprehensive websites dealing with internet safety. The safety guides advise parents on how to talk to kids and teens about everything from fake news to sexting. Besides its extensive resource base, Safekids has printable family contracts for online safety and mobile phone use.