Internet Safety for Kids

Internet Safety for Kids

Written by: Hannah de Vries

The internet has opened a whole new world of exploration for kids. Although the internet is a great resource for finding information, playing games and connecting with family and friends, it is important to be aware of potential dangers and to keep children safe while they browse. 

On the internet, children may come across inappropriate content such as graphic or upsetting images and videos. A child may be persuaded to share personal information with strangers or provide contact details after clicking on pop-up messages. They may also be subjected to cyberbullying as a victim or acting in ways that may hurt others. Additionally, given children’s young age and limited life experience, the “online” world and the real world often blend together, blurring the lines of reality.

To combat these online challenges, parents can use a variety of strategies to help ensure child safety while using the internet:

Create a family media plan. A family media plan can help families navigate the digital world. Your plan can include details for screen-free areas and times, family expectations about children’s media experiences and programs and apps that are okay for your child to use. It’s best to create the family plan with your child and ask for their suggestions.
Use child-friendly search engines.
Kiddle is a safe, visual search engine for kids powered by Google. Other examples include KidtopiaGoGooligansKidRex
• Check that games, websites and T.V. programs are appropriate for your child. Look at the reviews on common sense media
Be a good role model. Limit your own media use and follow the rules on your family media plan. 
Use your devices’ safety features. Block in-app purchases and disable one-click payment options on your devices. Use parental controls and safe search settings on browsers, apps, etc. Make sure to check your privacy settings and location services as well. These features can typically be found under “settings” on your device. 
Use the internet with your child and make sure you are close by while your child is online. Show interest in what your child is doing by exploring the sites with them and asking them to show you how to play their online game. 
Educate your child. It is important for you to help your child identify unsuitable material. Name what to look for. For example, “Let me know if you see a site with scary pictures or bad words.” Also, help your child understand that they should not communicate with people online that they don’t know in person, especially in social virtual games. 
Build your child’s digital literacy by encouraging your child to question things they find on the internet. Help them recognize that not all content found online is true. 
Bookmark fun, safe and educational sites for your child for easy and approved access.

It is equally important for you and your child to trust each other. Maintain calm and open conversations about internet use. If your child feels trusted, they are more likely to talk to you about what they do online and the content they see. Try to talk openly rather than using surveillance apps. Remember, children will make mistakes using media and that is okay! Manage your child’s mistakes with empathy and use each mistake as a moment for teaching. 

The internet can be wonderful for kids, but similar to other environments, it comes with risks. Help your children understand the dangers and use these tools to keep them safe online. 

Promoting Cultural Development and Understanding in Children

Celebrate Our World – Country: Ethiopia

Promoting Cultural Development and Understanding in Children

Written by: Rachele Gentry

Children are curious. Why? What? How? The questions sometimes seem never-ending. Curiosity is vital, but what about the curious questions that provoke an awkward encounter? “Mom, why does that girl look that way?” Teaching and talking about diversity early on can provide children with answers to these questions, without the awkward encounters. 

What is Culture and Race?
Culture refers to the unique characteristics of a specific group: language, religion, food, social norms, music and arts. While culture generally stems from ethnicity, where one’s family originates, race is associated with biology, or one’s physical characteristics.  

Cultural Awareness of Others
Around six months of age, babies show preference for people of the same race. Although biases may begin at an early age, research shows that when children, as young as pre-school, learn about and interact with people of diverse cultures, rates of implicit racial biases decrease. There are several ways to promote racial harmony and decrease implicit racial biases for young children. The most important thing is to be positive and do not shame your child for asking tough questions. Children are never too young to talk about race. 

Modeling
• Children learn a vast majority through watching others, especially their parents
• Model an accepting attitude towards all people
• Have conversations about why people look, dress or speak differently in a positive manner

Promote Interracial Friendships
• Be aware of who your child’s friends are and ensure that they can spend time with all their friends, regardless of race

Extracurricular Activities
• Not all schools are diverse. A wonderful way to expose your child to diversity is to enroll them in sports, drama or other clubs that allow children from different neighborhoods to interact. 

Attend Cultural Events 
• Communities often have several cultural events throughout the year that are open to, and typically free, to everyone. 
Seattle Center has a diverse range of cultural event including festivals celebrating cultures such as: Brazilian, Arab, Tibetan and Hawaiian.

Expose Children to Diverse Characters
• Representation is important! Read books with racially and ethnically diverse characters
• Ensure that the books are culturally responsive and positive; the characters should be doing everyday things!

Imagine Children’s Museum Celebrate Our World
Imagine’s Art Studio celebrates a different country or culture the first Saturday of every month. Visit  https://www.imaginecm.org/programs-camps-events/celebrate-our-world/to learn more. 

“It is time for parents to teach young people that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou

Sensory Processing

Sensory Processing: What is it and how can we Support it?

Written by: Rachele Gentry

Bright lights, loud conversations, kids crying … public spaces can be overwhelming for everyone, especially those with sensory processing sensitives. 

What is sensory processing?
Sensory processing is how our nervous system understands and organizes the details in the environment around us. For some people, their nervous system responds differently to certain stimuli, and may create an over- or under-sensitive response to everyday events in their environment. Common situations might include having an intense response to a loud noise, feeling agitated by the way clothing touches the skin and having adverse reactions to textures of specific foods. 

Many people attribute difficulty in loud and overwhelming environments as a symptom of Autism. While most individuals with Autism do experience sensory processing difficulties, processing differences and difficulties can affect anyone. 

Coping Strategies for Those with Sensory Processing Difficulties
Create a chill out zone; a quiet and organized space for a child to go to when things are too overwhelming. This space may include: 
  ◦ Low lighting
  ◦ Favorite books
  ◦ Noise cancelling headphones
  ◦ Weighted blanket

Allow your child to wear noise cancelling headphones in public 
  ◦ Reduces sound input significantly 
  ◦ Decreases overstimulation of one major sense 

Eliminate the use of fluorescent lights
  ◦ You may not even notice, but these bright lights produce a low-tone buzzing noise, which can be overstimulating 
  ◦ The intensity of the lights can be overwhelming

Allow people to make their own choices
  ◦ 
Some people may need or prefer a specific diet to reduce adverse reactions
  ◦ It may be beneficial for someone to have the option to move freely through public spaces, rather than the rigid structures seen in public settings (classrooms, movie theaters, restaurants)

Community Resources
Imagine Museum’s Imagine the Possibilities: Sensory Time
• On the 3rd Sunday of every month, Imagine Children’s Museum provides sensory time for those who need it.
• This is a FREE event for children ages 1-12 (parents, siblings, and grandparents can join too!)
• The museum is only open during this time for these children and their families, making it less crowded and quieter.
• Noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, and sensory balls are available.

Sensory Friendly Films
The theater chain AMC provides a Sensory Family Films program the second and fourth Saturday of every month.
• Enjoy hit new movies such as Aladdin and The Secret Life of Pets 2 at a lower volume and in a less dark environment.
• Attendees are invited to get up, dance and walk around the theater during the showing.

When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander den Heijer