Mentoring online provides you the unique opportunity to reconnect with your mentee virtually, but also to facilitate a conversation with them about their online experiences. A conversation with your mentee doesn’t have to revolve exclusively around internet safety, but can also help them learn how to better navigate the online world.
There is plenty to worry about when children are online, but as a mentor, you can help by listening to your mentee describe how they view the world of the interweb. According to the Center for Child Protection’s webinar “Internet Safety” children view the online world differently than how it actually operates. For example, your mentee may view the internet as a private world because of where they can access it from, but we know that anything you post or share online can become public. Having a discussion with your mentee about the interweb reality can help them start to understand just how public the online world is, and the consequences that can come with that. Below are some ideas to help facilitate a conversation about online safety with your mentee.
- Be an Online Role Model and Share with Care: Model for your mentee how to share cautiously while on the internet. Too many times we have seen people end up in compromising positions due to what they decide to share online. It is critical that mentees understand that whatever they share on the internet can become public, even if they feel it is a safe place for them to express themselves privately.
- Sharing Positivity Online: Model for your mentee how others should be treated when communicating online. Remind your mentee that just because the internet is not a physical place, words still hurt and how they communicate with other people should be the same way they would like to be treated in real life. It is important to communicate responsibly online.
- Be Open to Learning: Model for your mentee how to be open to learning. Let your mentee teach you about how they navigate being on the internet. You might ask your mentee to teach you about any popular social media sites, messaging apps, or websites that they frequent. Giving them a chance to share with you about their online experiences not only can help you understand their perspective, but also give you insight as to how aware or unaware your mentee may be about the good and the bad of being online.
- Check In: Having a conversation with your mentee about being online does not have to stop at one conversation. If your mentee brings up any situation pertaining to their interweb experience, give them room to talk. You may be the only person they choose to share their online experiences with. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions about what they are experiencing. Remind them to talk to a trusted adult if you are not available, such as their caregiver, teacher, or counselor.
As you continue to help your mentee navigate their online experience, remember they will probably process their interweb experiences differently than you. As their mentor you can provide a safe space where they can feel open and honest about their online experiences. Below are some links to great articles that can help broaden your understanding of how to talk to your mentee about being online.
- 6 Ways to be a Digital Mentor: https://daily.jstor.org/6-ways-digital-mentor-kids
- Talking with Teens about Online Experiences: https://www.evidencebasedmentoring.org/talking-teens-online-experiences
- How to Talk about Internet Safety with Kids: https://www.fatherly.com/parenting/how-to-talk-about-internet-safety-with-kids
- Navigating Internet Risks: Mentors Can Help Show the Way: https://www.evidencebasedmentoring.org/navigating-internet-risks-mentors-can-help-show-way
- Chatting with Kids about Being Online: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0001-netcetera_0.pdf
- Center for Child Protection: https://centerforchildprotection.org