Today, you cannot keep children away from the Internet. Sooner or later they will have online profiles and social media accounts and will need to use the web for education and information. Of course, the online world comes with its dangers and pitfalls. It is therefore essential to teach children to use the Internet safely as soon as possible.
These websites offer different ways for children, parents, and educators to learn digital best practices and good behavior online. They tackle basics like security, privacy, and even behavioral patterns like cyberbullying through online games, interactive stories, quizzes, and step-by-step guides.
1. Be Awesome on the Internet (Web): Google’s Internet Safety Program for Kids
Be Internet Awesome is a revamped initiative from Google to teach kids how to stay safe online, along with best practices and good behaviors. It’s a set of three tools: an online game for kids called Interland, a series of lesson plans for educators, and the “Be Internet Awesome” pledge for parents.
Interland is a free internet safety game for kids. It is divided into four worlds, each with its own goals: Mindful Mountain (what to share and what not to share online), Tower of Treasure (how to protect information), Kind Kingdom (online behavior and avoiding trolls and bullying) and Reality River (how to identify fake news and scams). Different game types in each world instill best practices in children as they attempt to solve puzzles or complete goals.
The Parent Pledge is a simple set of five mission statements that the whole family must pledge to abide by, a fun group activity that holds everyone accountable. The program is a bit more complex, teaching children the fundamentals of being smart, alert, strong, kind and brave online to keep themselves and others safe. Each of these fundamentals is accompanied by several lessons for educators to teach best practices.
Since 1995, Childnet has been one of the oldest and most respected charities dedicated to the online safety of children and young people. It hosts a variety of free resources and programs to teach online best practices from an early age.
You may access the Website as a child between the ages of 4 and 11, between the ages of 11 and 18, a parent or guardian and a professional teacher or educator. You will find detailed articles written for this audience on how to behave in common digital scenarios such as social media, games, video calls, online bullying, trustworthiness of information, etc. Childnet also offers a quick directory of several helplines and support systems that children can access and direct links to the child protection services sections of several popular apps.
Over the years, Childnet has created several toolkits, videos, lesson plans, family activities and other helpful materials. These are all collected in one place on Childnet Resources, where you can filter them by smaller age groups (3-7, 7-11, 11-14, 14-18), by topic (sexual harassment in online, online grooming, parental controls, screen time, etc.) and by type of material (activity, toolkit, presentation, story, lesson plan, video, contest).
3. Digital Matters (Web): Free Online Safety Courses for Ages 6-11
Digital Matters is a series of free interactive lessons and storytelling games for children aged 6-11, their parents and educators. It was created by Internet Matters, a child online safety organization that works with several experts in the field to bring together best practices for children online.
You’ll find lessons on privacy and security, online relationships, cyberbullying, online information management, online reputation, health, wellness, and lifestyle. Each lesson takes about an hour or two to complete the entire course.
The lessons are divided into two stages: Interactive Learning and Once Upon Online. In interactive learning, children are taught by educators or parents about the topic using a printable curriculum provided by Digital Matters or through online quizzes. Then the child is encouraged to try the storytelling game Once Upon Online, where they will be presented with realistic scenarios and where they will have to make the best choices to stay safe online.
Digital Matters is a great resource for online safety lessons for ages 6-11. But if your child doesn’t fit this age group, Internet Matters has plenty of other free materials and resources for all age groups to learn healthy digital habits.
4. ConnectSafely (Web): Best Parent Guides and Weekly “Ask Trish” Help Section
ConnectSafely has earned a reputation for providing accurate, step-by-step guides for parents and educators that demystify online trends and apps and help teach kids how to use online tools safely. Usually guides are available as a downloadable PDF, a shorter quick guide (which can be printed as a poster), and a 5-10 minute YouTube video.
The guides cover a variety of topics that are not often talked about. For example, as a parent, you might not know the first thing about TikTok other than knowing that it is a social media app that your child uses. ConnectSafely’s guide will take you from zero to hero, explaining how the app works, potential risks to children, best practices parents can follow, and how caregivers can help children use the app in a healthy way and responsible. Besides TikTok, you’ll find guides for Facebook Messenger, Roblox, Snapchat, Amazon Alexa, Discord, and even general topics like cyberbullying, teen sextortion scams, and hate speech.
Another ConnectSafely highlight is the weekly Ask Trish column, hosted by cyberbullying and online child safety expert Trish Prabhu. Anyone can write to Trish for advice in tricky online situations. She then makes a weekly TikTok video and accompanying article to address the topic and provides practical, positive steps.
Like ConnectSafely, Family Online Safety Initiative (FOSI) aims to help parents and educators guide children and students, rather than creating tools directly for children. Their Good Digital Parenting program is a highly cited toolkit of resources on how to raise young internet users.
The toolkit is available for two age groups: 6-11 and 12+. The two share a few documents like FOSI’s Seven Steps to Digital Parenting, but customize other documents like the Family Online Safety Agreement or “Teachable Moments” based on age group. Both toolkits also include a PowerPoint presentation with statistics, information and how to use the material.
On the main FOSI website, you’ll find several articles for parents or educators divided by topic (digital reputation, games, screen time) or platform (Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.) Page FOSI’s Tools and Resources makes it easy to find these materials by filtering the topic or type of material you want (blog plot, video, toolkit, or resource guide).
Don’t overwhelm with information
While these sites are great for teaching kids about internet safety, you need to introduce them gently. There’s a lot to cover when it comes to good online behavior, and it’s easy for kids to get overwhelmed. So use these sites at the recommended pace, or set up a schedule for your child to learn and practice the tips given.