Google and ISTE Team Up to Help Kids “Be Internet Awesome”
The rise of technology means more computers, tablets, and other technological tools in classrooms worldwide. This is why multi-billion dollar technology company, Google, and ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) have joined forces to create a new, modern way to teach children how to be as safe as possible online.
Be Internet Awesome is a new program developed to educate young students about “digital citizenship in interactive ways,” including an online game, a structured curriculum for teachers, and resources for parents to allow children to thrive while using the Internet.
According to KidsMatter.edu, around one fifth of eight to 13 year olds reported seeing or experiencing something on the Internet in the last year that bothered them in some way. There was also a rise in the number of children aged eight to nine years reporting that they had been cyber-bullied. Around 10 percent of 10 to 11 year olds, and 17 percent of 12 to 13 year olds also reported that they had been cyber-bullied.
For the Children
In a blog post, Google’s Vice President of Engineering for Kids and Families, Pavni Diwanji wrote: “To help kids learn these lessons in a way that’s fun and immersive, we created an interactive, online game called ‘Interland’. In this imaginary world of four lands, kids combat hackers, phishers, oversharers, and bullies, practicing skills they need to be good digital citizens.”
The game is free and web-based, so it’s easily accessible by everyone with Internet access.
These four virtual worlds aim to teach kids key lessons of digital safety. The Tower of Secrets is where children learn ways to protect themselves from hackers. Kind Kingdom shows why it’s better to be kind online. Reality River helps children identify what’s real and what’s fake, and Mindful Mountain shows how to pick and choose what to share on social media platforms.
GMA News Online notes that with the Internet slowly becoming more and more negative, it was just about time that “Be Internet Awesome” was launched.
Be Internet Awesome aims to teach kids five major components of digital citizenship.
According to the program’s official website, the creators that for children to make the most of the Internet, they need to be prepared to make smart decisions. The program hopes to allow children to explore the online world with confidence, safely.
“This is one of the most significant issues that we all face as a new generation grows up with the Internet at their fingertips,” Diwanji continues. “It’s critical that the most influential people in our kids’ lives—parents and teachers, especially—help kids learn how to be smart, positive and kind online, just like we teach them to be offline. It’s something we all need to reinforce together.”
Be Internet Smart: Share with Care
The program encourages thoughtful sharing by treating online communication like face-to-face communication: if it isn’t right to say, it isn’t right to post. It also stresses to keep personal details about yourself, family and friends private, and explains what type of communication is and isn’t appropriate.
Be Internet Alert: Don’t Fall for Fake
Showing children that people and situations online aren’t always as they seem by explaining what is real and what’s fake. The program also teaches the telltale signs of a potential online scam.
“If statements about “winning” or getting something for “free” feel too good to be true, they most likely are,” states Google. “Fair exchanges shouldn’t involve giving away any personal information.”
Be Internet Strong: Secure Your Secrets
Protecting valuable information helps anyone online avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships. The key to this is creating a strong, memorable password. The program notes to avoid using personal information like names or birthdays, and to use a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
Example: R3pl@ce le++ers wit# sYmb0ls & n^mb3rs 1ike Thi$.
Children are also instructed to not use the same password on multiple sites, and to create different variations of the same password for different logins on other sites.
Be Internet Kind: It’s Cool to be Kind
“The Internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. Kids can take the high road by applying the concept of ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ to their actions online, creating positive impact for others and disempowering bullying behavior,” Diwanji explains.
The program puts an emphasis on using the Internet to express positivity, and to stop the spread of harmful or untrue messages by not passing them on to others. It also stresses to make an effort to help those being bullied, while encourages kids to speak up against and report online bullying.
Be Internet Brave: When in Doubt, Talk it Out
Children will be encouraged to raise questions regarding content or behavior they see online. This creates more open communication between child and parent, and also builds trust toward the adult and confidence in the child.
For the Teachers
To help teachers learning how to teach young students how to use the Internet safely, the Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and ConnectSafely helped Google and ISTE create a classroom curriculum that brings the five major concepts of being Internet Awesome to life, at school.
The lesson plans, activities, and worksheets all were designed to directly align with the International Society for Technology in Education’s Standards for Students, which “educators look toward to define skills for safe and positive action online,” according to Google’s website.
“Building these skills in our students will require ongoing attention as new technologies pose challenges and opportunities for students both at home and at school,” says Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards at ISTE. “Be Internet Awesome provides materials educators and parents can use to help students learn about online safety in a fun and engaging way.”
Educators can find the curriculum on the Be Internet Awesome official website, or as part of a new online course in the Google for Education Training Center.
For the Parents
“Without some guidance, having a meaningful conversation about digital safety and respect at home can be really hard,” says Diwanji. “These are sensitive topics and parents may not know where to start.”
To reach a larger and younger audience, Google teamed up with a group of YouTube creators, John Green, the What’s Inside? Family and MinutePhysics, to launch the #BeInternetAwesome Challenge. This video series aims to make talking about online safety more fun and more accessible.
The Be Internet Awesome Pledge was also created to help families reinforce these important lessons to “stay smart, alert, strong, kind and brave online.”
WalmareBytes, an anti-malware software for Microsoft Windows, macOS and Android OS, believes that talking about Internet safety doesn’t need to be dry and boring; it can be creative, interesting, and fun!
“Regardless of how it is presented to the next generation, what’s really important is to get them involved in Internet security and privacy by starting that conversation, and we continue to talk about these with them,” WalmareBytes said in a statement.
Jess is a senior at Emerson College, studying journalism with a primary focus in news management. She is also an anchor and on air personality for 88.9 WERS FM Boston. When she isn't writing or doing her radio thing, you can find her on the beach with a New York Times Best Seller.