Parenting is not an easy job, especially these days. Not only do we need to keepour kids safe from physical dangers and harm, but we also need to instruct them on how to be good people offline and online. Let this digital citizenship guide be another resource in your parenting tool belt to help raise happy, healthy children into adults.
Our children are being raised in a very different landscape than we were. Their lives are steeped in technology from a very young age. Therefore, even if we are not technical experts, we do need to help our kids learn how to behave online to respect others and know all about the benefits and dangers of this connected, digital world.
Teaching children how to use digital devices, services, and social media is critical because they will be living in that world, long after we are gone. Just as we teach them the dangers of crossing the road, we must also inform them about cyberbullying, online stalkers, ransomware, phishing, and other risks lurking just below the surface of the internet.
Teaching your kids digital literacy benefits society as a whole so that children grow up knowing how to be respectful, responsible, kind, helpful, accepting, and productive. It also helps them build confidence knowing how to respond to inappropriate behaviors and content.
Kids hear the terms do’s and don’ts a lot in school, so it’s a smooth transition to use the same format when teaching them about digital citizenship. However, we also have to teach by example. We cannot tell our kids it’s rude to use cell phones at the dinner table and then do it ourselves. We have to be consistent and follow through with what we tell them are the dos and don’ts; we must follow ourselves.
When teaching your kids about digital citizenship, the items below are things you absolutely want to cover as dos:
According to an article in Engadget, four more DOs for teaching digital citizenship are:
As the parent of a child living in the digital world, do educate yourself on the latest technology, how social media platforms work, and involve yourself in your child’s digital lessons. It’s an ongoing process that doesn’t end until they are adults. You have to teach them along the way while you learn also.
Some don’t to keep in mind when instructing your kids on digital citizenship are:
There are many dangers, both physical and digital, in this world. At each stage of growth, the risks may be more imminent or less so. As kids get older and understand better, the dangers recede a bit, and we, as parents, can breathe easier. To help guide you through which dangers are more present, when, review the sections below.
TV and movies have evolved, and what was considered completely inappropriate a few years ago, is now commonplace on many shows and videos. However, just because the ratings people say it’s age-appropriate doesn’t mean you should let your kids watch it.
Violence on TV and in movies has been linked to anxiety, depression, and aggressive behaviors in preschool kids. Too much TV (more than 4 hours per day) can cause obesity in children.
Grade schoolers are introduced to “peer pressure” early, and what your kids watch in movies and on TV can influence their behavior and values. If a kid watches too much risky behavior (smoking and drinking) or shows and movies with stereotypes and racism, he or she may start to emulate this.
As kids get older, they want to act and feel like a grown-up. This is a difficult time for both parents and kids. Violence, risky behavior, and other unwanted ideals are a danger to pre-teens who want to fit in and be cool. They may imitate things they see on the screen to feel worthy.
Teens are basically adults-in-training, and they will push against any boundaries you put up. It may be more difficult to monitor and control the content that they are exposed to. However, there are still dangers in letting your teen watch too much violence or sex. Studies have shown that too much at a young age tends to promote those behaviors in young adults.
Children begin to use computers at an early age, and they are used regularly now in schools. Some of the dangers based on age group are:
Preschoolers generally want to play games online, and as long as you monitor them, they are unlikely to get into too much trouble on a computer.
Grade schoolers are using the computer more and more for education, researching, and to connect with friends. This is the time when some of the biggest dangers are child predators, cyberbullying, viruses and ransomware, along with exposure to inappropriate content.
Pre-teens are using computers more often than ever before. Unfortunately, this leaves them exposed to threats like cyberbullying, child predators, inappropriate content, social media shaming, and other issues.
By the time your child is a teen, hopefully, you will have educated them about the dangers of strangers online, social media trolls, and privacy issues. If they have been taught well, they should stay out of danger or at least come to you with any questions or concerns. The biggest danger here is viruses, malware, and ransomware.
Video games are another point of contention for many educators and parents. The dangers are:
Young kids love to play. Video games can be a fun way to let them explore fantasy and engage their imagination. However, some video games include inappropriate content, and too much screen timehas been linked to various health issues.
Grade schoolers are probably the widest demographic playing video games. Some games are great for brain building and learning. However, many popular games (loved by peers) are too violent and may include other risky behaviors (drugs, drinking, and sex).
As pre-teens are exposed to higher levels of violence in video games, they may start to express fear, distrust, and act out in other ways. Some of these games can cause confusion about what is real and what is not.
Even teens playing video games can get the wrong idea about what is right and wrong. When cheering for the “good guy” who slew the bad guys, it may put an unwanted spin on violence and confuse teens.
Advertising is often aimed at young people who don’t fully understand that what they are being told is not the whole truth.
Preschoolers are very vulnerable to ads targeting youngsters. They haven’t fully grasped what is real and what is not.
Although grade-schoolers are older, they too can become confused about what is real, and they may believe ads they see on TV without question.
Pre-teens are at risk as well, especially for ads that target this age group. Advertisers may make unwanted behaviors look cool or okay.
Even teens haven’t fully developed and can be caught up in advertising they see online or on TV. It’s up to you to educate them and set them straight.
Some steps you can take to make sure your kids avoid the risks: