How TV Networks and ISPs Are Teaching Kids to Be Good Digital Citizens

Adults aren’t the only ones who are connected to the internet practically every minute of the day. According to a recent Pew survey, 45 percent of teens (ages 13-17) say they are online almost constantly, up from 24 percent in 2015. With peer interaction right at their fingertips and the ability to share videos and pictures in mere seconds, it’s no wonder that teens are using the internet more than ever. Speeds have increased as internet service providers roll out faster and more robust networks every year, giving everyone the opportunity to socialize anywhere and anytime they want. But as harmless as all of this sounds, kids are often vulnerable to online risks and negative interactions that can lead to cyberbullying, depression, or addictive behavior.

Among online activities that kids partake in, social media is one of the biggest draws. And although Pew reported that Facebook usage among this demographic fell to 51 percent (down from 71 percent in 2015), YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are ranked as the top platforms that kids are visiting daily. The survey also polled teens who reported that social media was having a negative effect on their lives. Bullying and peer pressure were a couple of the reasons they listed as to why social media was impacting them in this way.

To help combat bullying and risky online behavior and to promote positive online interactions among kids, ISPs and TV programmers offer a plethora of tools and resources to empower families. These fall into a couple of different categories, one of which aims to prevent cyberbullying from even starting by raising educational awareness about people’s differences, and also using social media as a forum for positive sharing of these differences.

TV programmers are finding that the best way to do this is by meeting kids where they hang out the most–on social media. Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up initiative creates and shares videos and content that emphasize empathy, acceptance and appreciation of people who are different. Nickelodeon also launched a year-long “That’s Me” multimedia campaign earlier this year, which uses dedicated themed months to teach kids about different cultures, backgrounds, and heritages. The network rolled out the campaign throughout its on-air and digital channels to focus on spreading positive messages about diversity and inclusion as part of its anti-bullying efforts. Then there’s MTV’s Look Different campaign, which began in 2014, and uses social media as a forum for teens to discuss tough issues like racial, gender, and LGBTQ inequality. The campaign educates kids on hidden biases and how to identify discrimination in different situations.

When it comes to protecting kids online from cyberbullying and obsessive online habits, ISPs have also been long-time advocates for families in overall internet safety. Comcast, Charter, Cox Mediacom and Midco offer online parental controls, monitoring programs and tools that allow parents to track the amount of time their kids spend online and the social media sites that they’ve visited, as well as to block the ones that could be harmful or addictive. Two recent standout technologies include Comcast’s xFi service, which gives parents the ability to set parental control filters for their kids, and Disney’s Circle, a security appliance with a similar set of access control and safe search features.

But aside from building the technology that ensures a safer internet experience, companies also offer a wealth of digital literacy and ethics training to educate kids and parents on how to interact positively with peers and how to best protect their online reputations. Cox’s Digital Academy, for example, works with various partners and organizations to teach kids through videos and multimedia tutorials about social media platforms and the risks associated with them.