For most students, use of technology increases over the summer. Whether it’s finding new books on e-readers, creating new worlds in Minecraft, or simply connecting with friends over social media, the majority of students will find themselves online over summer vacation.
While students typically have greater support and adult supervision over their time online during the school year, the summer can be a vulnerable time for children – particularly those who are victims of cyberbullying. In addition to using technology in moderation and monitoring internet activities, the following digital safety tips can help kids stay safe online.
The acronym R.E.S.T. can help establish good online habits for students of all ages, particularly in the unstructured summer months. It stands for:
1. Remain cautious
With 81% of kids using social media, it can be a great way for children to stay connected with their friends over the summer. However, encourage children to be cautious in what they post; avoid using their full names whenever possible and avoid posting too much personal information on public profiles, such as their age, address, school, or other locations they visit often. Likewise, it’s important to remind teens that the internet isn’t private; even texts, photos, or videos from self-deleting apps like Snapchat can be saved or have screen shots taken.
2. Express positivity
Our mothers told us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The same sentiment should be expressed to children about posting or commenting online; encourage them to post positive comments and avoid hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to be negative towards others.
3. Stay active
While summer is a time to rest and recuperate before the next school year starts, it is not an excuse to spend two months inside online. Children should regularly take breaks from electronics during the day; activities such as going on a walk, cooking a snack or meal, working on an art project, or volunteering are all ways to take breaks from screens. Likewise, encourage kids – and adults – to do a “digital detox” for at least one weekend over the summer. Put away phones, tablets, and computers for an entire weekend to enjoy quality time together as a family.
4. Tell someone
A study by Dosomething.org [https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying] found that 90% of teens who witnessed cyberbullying did not say or do anything to stop it. Encourage kids of all ages to tell a parent, coach, counselor, or other trusted adult if they or someone they know is being bullied online. Likewise, talk to your children about their online activities; ask them what sites they visit, who they connect with on social media, and encourage them to follow their instincts if something seems off or makes them uncomfortable.