Teaching Kids Digital Citizenship

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Have you just bought a new family computer, and your son or daughter is excited to jump on and join the social world of the Internet. Short of locking them in their room until they’re 18, you’re going to have to come to terms with letting them jump on the Web for schoolwork, and eventually the social realm.

But how do you make sure the life skills you taught them in the real world make their way to cyber space? Since you’ve already armed them with life-long training in manners, here are some tips to help them carry those over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social media application you’ve allowed them to participate in.

Lesson 1: Sexting is never ok, and it’s never private

Ask your son or daughter how they’d feel if someone printed out a picture of them and littered it into the streets. That’s exactly what can happen when photos leave your own phone. Giving simple examples can help children and teens understand the real dangers of sexting.

Lesson 2: Don’t fall victim to cyber bullies… and never be the bully

The mean kids are no longer left behind once kids leave the schoolyard. Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms allow other kids to harass others without even leaving their homes. If your son or daughter feels like they’re being bullied online, make sure you use the program’s settings to block bullies, and then talk to your school’s principal to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue back at school. Also, make sure your child knows that it is never OK to bully others.

Lesson 3: Know what not to share

Just like sexting, even information that seems harmless can never be considered private once you release it to the World Wide Web. Make sure kids know not to send information to anyone they don’t know. That includes full name, phone number, address, email address, passwords and any other information they wouldn’t want printed and posted anywhere – including photos.

Lesson 4: Understand what makes a good online citizen

Just like playing sports, acting in the school play or joining the French club, online experiences can be a good thing. Encourage your kids to follow blogs that interest them. If they’re interested in photography, what better way to learn more than asking questions on the Facebook page of an industry professional. But make sure they are keeping the same positive attitude you’d expect from them in the real world if they disagree with someone’s opinion.

Lesson 5: Always be aware of your online activities

Just because one of their friends from school sent a link to a cool article, doesn’t mean that friend wasn’t infiltrated by the same link and attached virus? Teach your son or daughter how to spot questionable links and always make sure to have a quality Internet security program installed on all your devices. Even the most cautious adults have an “oops” moment with links that appear to be from family and friends, and without a good security program, the private information you’ve taught your kids to keep to themselves could end up somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Now that you and your kids know how to play safe while still taking advantage of the amazing offerings of social media, go find a fun project to take on this weekend, and share it with your friends to see… online.