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  • Writer's pictureSukriti Pant

Being Internet Awesome is for Everybody!

On the internet, everything is tracked. From the links you click to the Instagram posts you hover on for 2 seconds longer than usual- everything you do on the internet is monitored. Basically - what is said and done on the internet, stays on the internet!

But how much do we really know about where our data goes, or what happens to it?

In this article, we explore an initiative that’s creating this awareness for students - Google’s Be Internet Awesome Program.

The number of kids that use smartphones, or internet-enabled devices has been on the rise. According to a study published by Pew Research, more than 33% of parents with a child under 12 say that their child was interacting with a smartphone before the age of 5. Why is this data significant?

A survey conducted by Google found that only 30% of parents feel confident to talk to their children about online safety. Another survey conducted by the Centre for Cyber Safety and Education found that 40 percent of kids in grades 4-8 reported they connected or chatted online with a stranger.

  • 53% revealed their phone number to a stranger

  • 21% spoke by phone with a stranger

  • 6% revealed their home address to a stranger

With parents feeling ill-equipped to talk to children about data privacy, and children being unaware of how to stay safe online, are children really aware of how this online world actually works?

Enter Google’s Be Internet Awesome Program. Created to ‘help kids navigate the online word with confidence’, the program focuses on five key lessons for children to learn:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care

  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake

  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets

  • Be Internet Kind: It's cool to be kind

  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

What makes Google’s initiative great is that there’s something for everybody.

If you’re a student…

a.k.a. the target audience of the program then you can play Interland !

Interland is a free, web-based game by the Be Internet Awesome program. Kids aged 7-12 learn five foundational lessons across four different mini-games, or ‘lands.’

In Google’s words, “Kids are invited to play their way to Internet Awesome in a quest to deny hackers, sink phishers, one-up cyberbullies, outsmart oversharers and become safe, confident explorers of the online world.”

If you’re wondering that 7-year olds may be a little too young to learn about the internet, think again.

A survey conducted with 2000 parents found that parents, on average, said that online safety education should begin when their kids are eight years old. While the average kid gets a mobile phone by age eight, the average age for getting a tablet is age six.

Interland has been particularly well-received by kids ages 7-12, but can certainly be enjoyed by older and younger kids, too.

If you’re an educator…

Google’s got you covered too. In partnership with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, they designed a curriculum that brings the five principles of being Internet Awesome to life, at school. For example, to practise the skill of being Internet Alert, students can work together to identify whether websites and emails contain signs of a phishing attempt.

Of course, Google’s efforts to design resources for educators began when educators told them they needed these resources.

In a survey that Google conducted with 1000 educators, 83% teachers felt they needed more resources to teach online safety in the classroom. 87% wished that parents were more involved when it comes to keeping their kids safe online.

Let’s focus on that last line. Because Google did too.

If you’re a parent…

Head on to YouTube! For parents, Google teamed up with a group of YouTube creators to launch the #BeInternetAwesome Challenge, a video series that makes talking about online safety fun and accessible. Families can also sign the Be Internet Awesome Pledge, so they ensure that all members stay smart, alert, strong, kind and brave online.

This was also reflected in the survey that Google conducted with parents, where 90% of parents agreed that kids should have strong digital literacy skills to be successful.

This is not all Google did. They also wanted to see if this program they’d created actually worked. So, they asked the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center to evaluate their program.

The researchers found that students who participated in the Be Internet Awesome program improved their understanding of being civil online, understanding which websites are safe and responding more confidently to cyberbullying.

When researchers recommended places where students may need more guidance, Google updated their curriculum to make sure that these changes were made.

However, the program has its limitations.

For one, even the Be Internet Awesome Program does not teach children about data privacy beyond the ‘usual’ - being careful in sharing data with strangers online, setting a strong password, and remembering to not share it with people you don’t know.

This places children at a huge disadvantage, limiting their understanding of privacy, especially at an age where they should be learning more about it. Children should have answers to questions like who has their data, who’s tracking them, what their rights online are, and who they can talk to for help. That’s why we hope that Google amends its curriculum to include more modules on data privacy too!

Written by Sukriti Pant

Sukriti is a Teach for India alumnus and the Director of Programmes at Via News Didi. She is an SSt. teacher at heart and loves to draw when not doing all things VND!

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