Teaching Digital Empathy Through Play

Kids today spent more time connected to the internet than any generation that preceded them. Whether remote learning at home or scrolling through TikTok (instead of doing their homework), many kids spend the majority of the waking hours online.

With this comes a big responsibility on the part of teachers and parents to educate children on appropriate digital behaviour. Digital empathy — the ability to consider how your actions might affect others in the online world — is one of the most important skills that young people can be taught, alongside general cyber safety tips

Fortunately, there are a range of programs and resources out there that can assist. Children learn in all sorts of different ways, including play. To celebrate Safer Internet Day 2021, Lego teamed up with DQ Institute to help children understand their online responsibilities and how they can contribute to a safer online world.

Rights and responsibilities as an online citizen

While we teach children how they should treat each other in the real world, we often don’t take the time to educate on the rights and responsibilities they have as online citizens.

Part of being a digital citizen is making sure that the world around you is a safe and welcoming one for people from all walks of life. To that end, ensure that children understand the following points:

  • Always use appropriate language when chatting with others online
  • Respect the views and opinions of others
  • Protect your privacy and the privacy of others
  • Think about how your actions affect others
  • Follow intellectual property laws and do not unlawfully share other people’s work.

Lego — teaching digital citizenship through play

Children take on board information in different ways and it’s important that educators facilitate all learning styles. Lego understand this and recently teamed up with think-tank DQ Institute to develop a fun and informative game as part of Safer Internet Day.

‘Become an Online Hero’ invites children to answer a range of questions relating to responsible digital behaviour before the game reveals their online superhero personality — Sir Hug-A-Lot (empathy), Butterclops (self-awareness), AeroVision (other perspectives) or Admiral Highfive (kindness).

Through this quiz, Lego and DQ Insitute hope that children will consider the effects of their actions on others and how they can promote superhero traits and attributes in their online behaviour. 

Keeping kids safe online

Teaching kids digital empathy and compassion is very important. However, equally as crucial is speaking with your children about the types of threats that exist in the online world. Many kids understand or have the critical thinking ability to detect digital danger. It is up to parents and teachers to make sure that children have the skills and knowledge to stay safe online.

Strategies that promote cyber safety for kids include:

  • Encouraging your children to come to you if someone makes them feel uncomfortable online or they don’t feel safe.
  • Monitor the apps and websites that your children visit and ensure they are safe and appropriate.
  • Teach your children about the importance of protecting their private information online — including their full name, location, date of birth, and any other type of identifiable information.
  • Keep an eye out for changes in your child’s behaviour that could indicate something is wrong.
  • Ensure your children are well informed about the dangers of viruses, malware, and ransomware. Children should understand that malicious links and spam websites can do great harm to their devices.
  • Speak to your child’s school about their online safety and cyberbullying policies. Make sure that they are being taught in-class about the dangers of the online world and the responsibilities they have towards their peers.

Armed with these tips — as well great resources such as Lego’s ‘Become an Online Hero’ quiz — your kids will be well equipped to detect online threats while behaving in a safe and responsible manner.