How to foster safe and responsible online behaviors

As children and teens spend more time learning and communicating behind a screen, your responsibility as a teacher or parent now includes helping kids stay safe online. While you can’t always be there to make choices for them, you can equip them with the knowledge they need to navigate the virtual world responsibly.  

Teaching digital citizenship ensures students understand how to use technology to their benefit and proactively addresses challenges they may face online. Here are some ways you can empower kids to make smart choices while browsing the web.

Introduce online safety

Do your kids know why it’s important to protect themselves online? Talk to students about common safety issues they could encounter and consider showing them how (dangerously!) easy it is to find personal information through a Google search.  

Introduce the basics of cybersecurity: create effective passwords, review security settings, refrain from sharing personal information, and don’t visit unknown sites or suspicious links. Remind children that the internet is public—anything they share can be seen by anyone. Lastly, ask students to take a digital citizenship pledge promising to stay safe online!

Teach digital literacy

With an abundance of materials and resources just a few clicks away, access to knowledge has never been easier. However, do your students know how to differentiate between useful information from potentially harmful pages? Teaching digital literacy will not only empower children to use the internet safely but also help them find the information they need effectively!

Start by explaining how to conduct a proper web search, how to identify credible sources, and how to share the information they learned in their own words. You can teach these topics in tandem with a research project, which will help learners apply these important academic and life skills.

Discuss the dangers of social media

While social media is a great way for older kids to express themselves and connect with others, students also need to understand the downsides. Have a conversation about both the positive and negative impacts of social media. Remind children that anything they post can be permanent, and discuss how they can maintain a positive digital footprint.

Prevent cyberbullying

Unfortunately, the ability to hide behind screens allows cyberbullies to easily taunt their targets. Adults can help stop cyberbullying by teaching kids how to engage with peers responsibly and respectfully on the web. Encourage mindful virtual communication by setting clear guidelines for appropriate digital etiquette.

Even if your children are too young for social media, it’s never too early for them to practice respectful communication! Building strong relationship skills based on kindness and empathy will help them protect themselves and others, both online and offline.   

Looking for more social and emotional learning activities? Check out’s Learning Library!