The other day, my youngest daughter and I were watching some of her favorite videos on my iPad when it hit me how different life is for my kids. Growing up, the most technologically advanced things we were exposed to were the games at the neighborhood arcade.
Now my kids are growing up in the age of the internet and they’re interacting with the digital world, whether I like it or not. It was up to me to teach them the ins and outs of being a good digital citizen. I wanted them to learn not only how to be safe online but also how to creatively, positively and productively navigate the online world.
The first step was educating myself on what my kids are up to online. I didn’t want to be one of those parents who are clueless about their kids’ online habits so I got curious. I asked them about their favorite sites, what games and videos they loved and why. It was an eye-opener.
Realizing that my kids spent a sizeable amount of time online made me decide to teach them some basics about good digital citizenship:
Respect themselves and others online.
My kids know that they are to respect others online just as they respect themselves. It’s so easy to hide behind a screen and hurl insults and abuse at others but how would they like it if someone did the same to them?
Additionally, I try to instill a sense of empathy in them by reminding them to think of the other person on the other side of the screen. I also constantly encourage them to be kind online and to try as much as possible to post positive, constructive comments and promote positive behavior online.
Protect private information.
From the time they were young, I taught my kids to be safe online by not sharing information that should be kept private. This includes things like their address, name, age, location, passwords, etc. As they grew older, I expanded this lesson to include discussions on the downside of oversharing information with others, even those they think to be their friends.
I remind them to read over anything before they post it and to think of the different ways it could be interpreted. Sure they might mean something as a joke but it could come off as offensive to someone else.
Verify the information they find online.
Something else I keep emphasizing to my children is the importance of verifying whatever information they come across online. Just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. I encourage them to be detectives, questioning what they see and hear, recognizing red flags and doing their own research to verify the truth.
Similarly, we’ve had discussions about using digital content and the importance of citing sources, especially when doing schoolwork or projects. They understand that digital content is intellectual property and should be treated with respect.
Stand up to cyberbullying when they see it happen.
With cyberbullying being so prevalent on social media, I decided to teach my kids to stand up for those they see being bullied. They know they need to speak out about it or come to me should they encounter any form of cyberbullying. I also taught them how to flag and report such incidents to the relevant websites for action.
The conversation on being a good digital citizen is an ongoing one in our house. I keep discovering new things to address and discuss and I don’t mind because I know my kids will be better for it.