Helping children become safer, smarter and happier on the internet

Teaching young people about the online world is no small feat. Children naturally see themselves as digital experts – so as a parent or teacher it can be challenging to balance independent research and online safety.

In partnership with Parent Zone, Google Be has set up Internet Legends – an educational program that has been embedded in the UK primary school curriculum since 2018. It provides teachers with materials to introduce children aged 7-11 to digital safety skills, from detecting false information and scams, to being kind to each other. It is estimated to have helped teachers educate more than four million students and have reached almost three quarters of UK primary schools. It also has resources for parents so you can continue to apply these principles at home.

Caroline Lock is a sixth year teacher at Valley Road Primary School in Oxfordshire. She has two teenage children of her own and uses Be Internet Legends in her class. Here she talks about the positive impact of the program on her students.

Why is it important for children to learn online safety skills as part of the school curriculum?

Our children live in a digitally connected world. As educators, our role is to help them develop the skills they need to navigate and communicate online and offline. We want young people to take full advantage of the benefits that the Internet can bring to their lives, socially, emotionally and educationally. Knowing how to analyze online content, understand how to communicate positively and recognize potential risks are essential skills children need today.

How effective is the Be Internet Legends program and what are its best aspects?

For me, as a teacher and parent, the program stands out for its positivity – its main goal is to help children become smarter, safer and happier explorers of the digital world. The resources are aimed at empowerment, not limitation. A simple yet effective internet code – Be Sharp, Alert, Secure, Kind and Brave – supports the program with messages that are just as important online as they are offline.

My class especially enjoyed using the Be Internet Legends Interland game and the Build Your Legend quiz. The interactive elements encouraged valuable class discussions and the students loved building their own Internaut trophy. They were able to make the trophy by correctly answering all the quiz questions to unlock the instructions – we still have one proud to see!

What impact has Be Internet Legends made on your students?

It has given us a shared language to use with both children and their parents on how we can all get the best out of the internet. The children learn to see connections between the decisions they make in the real world and the online world. Employees have become more confident in discussing topics such as phishing, hacking and over-sharing with their students. And the fact that the program is powered by Google has certainly given credit to our classes, meaning the kids are more engaged and responsive to our teaching.

Children often see themselves as digital experts, which can be a challenge for teachers and parents. How do you navigate this?

One of the great things about working with kids is that I learn new things from them every day – especially when it comes to the latest fads, dance trends and apps! But sometimes it feels like technology is evolving faster than we can keep up with. This leads to concerns that we are not teaching children the right skills because we are not sure how to use certain apps ourselves.

While children may be “experts” at producing digital content, they still need the support of teachers and parents to help them understand how to use their skills safely. The key is to help parents understand this and reassure them that they don’t have to be digital experts themselves to help their child stay safer online.

What resources can parents use at home to help them take control of their family’s digital life?

As part of the Be Internet Legends program, Google and Parent Zone have developed several resources aimed specifically at parents. A dedicated parent page offers all kinds of support, including a very engaging animated series – The Legends Family Adventure – to watch with your child. You will also find ‘family guides’, which guide parents in discussing, learning and thinking about online safety with their children. If your child’s school uses Be Internet Legends, ask your child to share what they learned with you. Play the Interland game together and show them how their learning in the classroom compares to what they learn at home.

Read more about Be Internet Legends.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/ Monkey Business Images.

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