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'Safer Internet Day' offers free resources to parents, children

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Trimmel Gomes

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(Florida News Connection) As Florida lawmakers advance bills to restrict children's access to social media, Tuesday's Safer internet Day is a global campaign to raise awareness about the benefits and risks of connected technology.

With the theme "Together for a Better internet," organizers are calling on parents to get more involved and open lines of communication with their kids about their screen times.

Yvonne Johnson, president of the National Parent Teacher Association, said families and caregivers should aim to promote healthy digital habits by having open dialogue about the use of various apps and websites.

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"We want families to literally have these conversations with their kids, because, first of all, they should be talking to each other," Johnson pointed out. "They definitely should be talking about what they are doing on the internet because, as you know, there are a lot of things that can happen."

Families should have a plan for their internet use and should openly discuss do's and don'ts, such as avoiding sharing personal information. Johnson noted they have partnered with ConnectSafely to host a free virtual event called "Smart Digital Parenting."

Last week, the Florida House approved a contentious bill prohibiting children younger than 16 from accessing popular social media platforms, regardless of parental consent.

Johnson suggested a strategy to encourage healthy use of digital platforms, termed the "three T's": talk, try and teach. The approach involves actively engaging with your children by downloading an app they are interested in, learning it together, and navigating the platform collaboratively to promote a safer online experience.

"This way, you can talk together about it and make sure that they are not using it, and then teaching your kids about security and privacy settings," Johnson outlined. "That's probably one of the top things, other tools that are available in the app."

Proponents argued the bill safeguards children from the dangers of social media, including bullying, predators, and mental health issues. Opponents claim it violates the First Amendment and believe parents should decide which sites their children can access.