“Digital citizenship” is a new word being used in the social media and Internet world.
According to Cable in the Classroom, the national education foundation of the U.S. cable industry, digital citizenship is a holistic and positive approach to helping children learn how to be safe and secure, as well as smart and effective participants in a digital world. This means helping children understand their rights and responsibilities, recognize the benefits and risks, and realize the personal and ethical implications of their actions. Digital citizenship can include online security and relationships, balancing screen time, protecting personal information, and minding one’s reputation and ethics.
It is extremely important for digital citizenship to take a forefront in conversations with children and their parents. Parents must emphasize positive ways to act online as kids use technology and engage others. It is vital to discuss the need to have a good online reputation. After all, nobody wants to be a point of discussion for his/her inappropriate behavior on the Internet. Below are ways that parents and children can work on being good digital citizens.
- teach children to take responsibility for their actions
- consider monitoring your child’s social media accounts
- educate kids about virtual etiquette
- understand the challenges posed by technology
- be aware of bullying via phones
- allow kids to communicate with strangers
- assume filters block all social networking
- ignore the need to discuss social mapping
- forget to talk about media sharing
- overlook the dangers of smart phones
Kids must always be conscious of how they are presenting themselves online. Your social media accounts are an extension of yourself, so take responsibility for your actions. This includes representing yourself in an accurate and appropriate way, such as with pictures, statuses or comments.
Also watch your words. Do not say anything that would embarrass you if a grandparent or future employer saw it. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Never join in if you see someone being cyberbullied.
If you are not sure your children are portraying themselves appropriately online, consider monitoring their social media accounts. Online security sites can alert you if your child is talking about illegal or explicit activities. Stress to your kids that their online behavior can follow them for the rest of their lives. In addition, emphasize the importance of digital citizenship and set a good example for them to follow.
The constant changes in technology are changing how we parent. However, all good parenting relies on the ability to dialogue with your child. Just as you taught your child manners and social etiquette, do not forget the etiquette they need to know in their virtual world.
The majority of teenagers spend one third of their waking hours online or on their phones. Help protect them with knowledge about how they should represent themselves in the virtual world, as well as in the real world.
While it has never been easy being a parent, technology presents challenges that make parenting more challenging than ever. If you have a child with a cell phone, your child is at risk for whatever advertisers think will sell. There is an app for everything, and since teens are technologically gifted, they probably know more of them than you do.
Another concern is a teenagers’ stage of development. Because they don’t have full development of their frontal cortex until 22 years old, they do not have a full grasp of consequences, future concepts or an understanding of forever. Parents must explain the rules of the phone and have a check-in process with their child. The more engaged the parent, the better the child is with being responsible and having a vision for their future that they will protect.
Since young people’s social lives increasingly involve cell phones, as well as the Web, cyber bullying and harassment also have gone mobile. Talk with your kids about how the same manners and ethics you have always taught them apply on phones and the Web as in real life.
Just as in chat rooms and social sites, kids need to think about who they text and talk with. They should never text or talk about sex with strangers. Phones should only be used to communicate with people they know in the real world.
Many social sites have a feature that allows users to check their profiles and post comments from their phones. This means some teens can do social networking literally anywhere, in which case any filter you may have installed on a home computer does nothing to block social networking.
Talk with your teens about where they are accessing their profiles or blogs from–and whether they are using the same good sense about how they are social networking on their phones.
More and more cell phones offer GPS technology, which means teens who have these phones can pinpoint their friends’ physical location—or be pinpointed by their friends. Have a conversation with your kids about using this technology and advise them to use it only with friends they know in person.
Most of today’s mobile phones have cameras and/or video cams—and teens love to share media with friends on all types of mobile devices. There is both a personal reputation and safety aspect to this. Sit down with your teens and discuss the importance of never letting other people photograph/film them in embarrassing or inappropriate situations and vice versa. They need to understand their own and others’ privacy rights in sharing photos and videos via cell phones.
More and more people can access all that the Web offers–appropriate or not–on their phones and computers. Mobile carriers are beginning to offer filtering for the content available on their services, but they have no control over what is on the Web. Parents of younger kids might want to consider turning off Web access and turning on filtering if they are concerned about access to adult content.
With parenting, nobody gets a second chance. We do the best we can with what we have. If you are a parent of tweens and teens, you need to understand technology and what your child is exposed to via the Internet, social networks, texting and commercials.
We all grew up wanting to be an adult. This feeling of wanting to be older is a common theme, but teens today achieve this need to act older much differently than they may have when you were a child. Society is sexualizing our children, which is demonstrated not only with clothing, but also with texting, sexting and social networks. It all begins at home with discussions between parents and their children. The greatest gift we can give our children is our time, and getting to know their world, which includes their virtual world.
*Some of this advice for parents was provided by connectsafely.org, a non-profit organization offering research-based resources about online well-being and digital literacy for parents, teens, educators, advocates and policymakers.