I am a volunteer with the social media group at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and was provided with early access to some of the new changes with the NS Teens website. I am sharing this post because of my relationship with NCMEC and because it’s important information for our kids.
NetSmartz is a website which offers a host of informational workshops for adults and kids. There is a unique site just for teens (and tweens) called NSTeens and it is designed to be an interactive portal for young people to learn about online safety and bullying education in a peer-to-peer environment.
NSTeens re-launched their site with a focus on interactive games, comics, and video. Through research, NCMEC learned that teens and tweens were more likely to listen to their peers when it comes to learning about the pitfalls of being online. While parents will definitely share information with their kids, we’re smart enough to know that our kids may tune us out. And no matter how much monitoring of their online usage we undertake, we can’t address every situation.
NSTeens offers 5 Significant Benefits to Kids (and Parents)
1. Games and Comics make learning fun – while online safety and bullying education are both very serious subjects, bombarding kids with facts and figures isn’t the best way to get through to our kids. With interactive games and comics, young people have the opportunity to see some of the consequences of making the wrong decision. Even if it’s not what they’d really do, kids are able to see what may happen if they don’t do the right thing. In this safe environment, kids are able to explore emotions, feelings, and results that in the real world can have significant or long-lasting consequences.
2. All content has been vetted by online safety experts – NSTeens was created specifically for kids 8-18 by law enforcement and child safety experts. Men and women whose job it is to help our kids have worked with other experts to develop a program that addresses these important topics in a way that is both meaningful but also factual.
3. Peer to peer conversations – let’s not kid ourselves and think our children will watch video with adult experts blathering on about doing the right thing. They may, for a time or two. But they’re more inclined to watch videos from their peers. By seeing themselves in these other kids, our kids are able to learn how to navigate new situations. In addition, our kids may see themselves as leaders and willing to be examples for their friends at school or in the community.
4. Parents encourage use of the site – while NSTeens is never going to be as popular as some of sites our kids become fixated with, it is a site that is safe and parents can encourage accessing the site. Especially for younger kids who want to play online games the site offers an opportunity for kids to get their feet wet while learning how to navigate some of the challenging social situations found in online gaming.
5. Bilingual Education – NSTeens is one of the only sites dedicated to educating kids about online safety that is available in both English and Spanish. Online safety and bullying education is important for all kids.
NSTeens is designed for kids but the site also integrates a page for educators (which would include parents!). This section of the site offers suggestions about how to incorporate the materials and information into classroom (or home) conversations.
In today’s world, we want our kids not only to be safe online but to understand the long-term consequences of choices they make. When we were kids we didn’t have to worry about many of the situations and circumstances our kids face today. The internet has added a new way of sharing that is new to both our kids and us. We’ve read the horror stories. The last thing we want is our kid to be one of them.
Share NSTeens with everyone you know who has teen or tween kids. Many are already online but don’t fully understand the significance of the choices they’re making today. Predators no long just lurk behind bushes or in dark alleys, they’re online and they’re looking for vulnerable kids. Bullies are taking what was once easily seen behavior into platforms that our kids can’t avoid.
NSTeens is a FREE resource for parents, educators, and kids.