ATLANTA - Privacy, bullying protection, and online safety should be taught to young children along with the ABCs and 1,2,3s, say experts on online security. Savvy Cyber Kids, a nonprofit, is distributing educational materials aimed at the preschool set to more than 11,000 parents and educators through the Mom Trusted community. And the toolkit is available online to anyone, for free, at SavvyCyberKids.org.
According to founder Ben Halpert, most safety education is focused on elementary to high school pupils, but it needs to start sooner because children these days start interacting with technology as toddlers.
"Five years old and younger is really the key point in a child's life," he said. "What you teach them there becomes ingrained in their minds, so it becomes more of a reflex."
Halpert said there is an opportunity to raise a generation to understand online safety, security, ethics and appropriate responses to bullying. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, which serves as a reason to introduce the website and materials to peers and preschools.
He's also produced picture books for parents to read to children that provide strategies for safety. The books feature two children who teach each other.
"The kids create an online identity as a superhero, and they use that online identity to protect them," Halpert explained. "So, if anyone ever asks them 'What's your name?', 'Where do you live?' as they grow up, they learn to respond only with their superhero identity that can't be traced back to them."
The books are available for purchase at Amazon.com, with editions in Spanish, French and German offered starting today.
The relevant websites are SavvyCyberKids.org and MomTrusted.com