Google launches 'Be Internet Awesome' to teach online safety habits


In celebration of National Internet Safety Month, Google has launched a new, interactive program called “Be Internet Awesome,” designed to foster responsible online practices among children.

“[Online safety literacy] is one of the most significant issues that we all face as a new generation grows up with the internet at their fingertips,” Pavni Diwanji, Google’s vice president of engineering for kids and families, wrote in a blog post earlier this month.

For this initiative, Google partnered with online safety experts from organizations such as Family Online Safety Institute and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, as well as best-selling author and vlogger John Green, co-creator of Crash Course, a YouTube channel dedicated to providing accessible education across many topics.

Earlier this month, Be Internet Awesome earned a Seal of Alignment from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), an accolade reserved for materials that meet the highest industry standards of pedagogical value.

“Digital citizenship is an important element of the student standards, and Be Internet Awesome will help prepare students to understand the power of the internet and how to navigate this constantly changing environment,” said Mindy Frisbee, ISTE’s director of alignment, in a statement.

Be Internet Awesome presents information to children, educators and parents, but it is primarily intended for children in grades 3-5. There are five key principles:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

Be Internet Awesome includes a detailed “Digital Citizenship & Safety Curriculum” for teachers as well as teacher-education webinars, classroom activity plans and lesson posters.

Beyond the Google program, Green and other YouTubers are leading an additional web video series — #BeInternetAwesomeChallenge — and a pledge for parents and families dedicated to these principles and their application at home and in the classroom.

The focal point of Be Internet Awesome is Interland, a web-based adventure game intended to give students hands-on experience with real online safety situations through puzzles and activities.

The game takes players through four “worlds.” Their avatars can play games that cover topics like phishing scams, data privacy, cyberbullying and sharing personal information online.

A 2016 study conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 33 percent of children surveyed had been cyberbullied in their lifetime. Google’s new curriculum and Interland have sections devoted to “the power of online positivity,” covering online social cues, the dangers of anonymity and the damage that cyberbullying can cause.

The “don’t fall for fake” message, meanwhile, comes at a time when email phishing scams are drawing more attention. According to Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, 23 percent of phishing targets open the emails, and 11 percent open attachments.

“It’s critical that the most influential people in our kids’ lives — parents and teachers, especially — help kids learn how to be smart, positive and kind online, just like we teach them to be offline,” Diwanji wrote. “It’s something we all need to reinforce together.”