I’m in the middle of a deep-dive into online safety for kids at the moment. Here are 2 books I’ve found particularly helpful, both published by New Zealand authors but applicable internationally.
Keeping Your Children Safe Online: A Guide for New Zealand Parents by John Parsons
John Parsons has seen it all. Through his work, he knows what can happen when children’s activity on the internet isn’t supervised and parents aren’t informed. Truly, it’s scary. But he’s not trying to frighten us. Instead he empowers us to empower our children so they can still participate online but can do so safely. This book is not a run down of how to use the safety features on various devices and apps but a deeper dive into how we can set our children up as smart online citizens who know how to keep themselves and others safe.
The 2 broad points I got from the book were to
- treat the online world as another location away from the family home. If our kids are heading out the door, we want to know where they’re going, who they’ll be with and that they know how to handle themselves around strangers, for example. We should be putting similar checks and boundaries in place when they jump online.
- teach our children to apply our family values to their online behaviour.
Using stories, snippets from interviews with children & parents and “Strategies for Parents” at the end of each chapter, John offers practical ways to go about this.
Why I suggest this book: This book has a certain timelessness. Although technology will change and new online challenges will arise, the approach that John Parsons suggests will still be applicable in years to come. I feel I now have a framework for approaching my children’s activity online that I can turn to in any situation. By helping me to see it as an extension of what I’m already doing, it feels more manageable.
Keeping Safe on the Web with Kyle the Kingfish Produced by Safe Surfer
The bright, engaging illustrations in this picture book caught my eye. Although the topic could feel little scary for kids (and parents!), the book is very welcoming and friendly, making it an enjoyable read despite the content it addresses.
Keeping Safe on the Web introduces kids to the main ideas around keeping themselves safe online. Kyle the kingfish, who narrates the book, likens the internet to the ocean, a place that can be safe & enjoyable in some areas and dangerous in others. Through ocean-based analogies, he briefly explains the threats of too much screentime, online bullying, photo sharing, giving away too much personal information and pornography. He offers a few simple tips for managing each.
Based on the complexity of the language and ideas, I’d suggest that the book is ideal for 9&10 year olds, although it depends on each individual child.
The producer of the book, Safe Surfer, is a social enterprise which has also developed internet filtering devices and apps. The book subtly links with their products, although this does not affect the experience of the book for those who don’t use them.
The e-book can be read for free online, although I find having the physical product around the house reminds me to talk with my boys little and often about online safety. Both versions can be found here.
Why I suggest this book: I read this book with my 9 year-old. He was keen to read it and it was a good way to raise the main concepts around keeping safe online with him. Now that we’ve read it together, he can pick it up again himself whenever he likes and we have opened up the conversation around online safety.
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