7) Build a healthy online identity
The internet is not going away anytime soon. Just as we teach our kids to grow up to become model citizens, we should also instill in them the tools to build a healthy online identity. They should understand that any pictures, videos or articles they share online or on social media can stay out there forever. When they become teenagers, encourage them to google themselves often. The can get an idea of what sorts of things are floating around out there and defining who they are.
Instead of allowing the internet to define them, they can start to take an active role in defining their own online reputation. As teens, when they get their first job, encourage them to set up a Linked In account. They can start placing their work and volunteer experiences on the website. Sponsors and mentors can leave recommendations for them. They can start to build a professional network and reputation that they can control. Many employers google potential employees and review their social media activities prior to hiring them to make sure they have no online red flags. Keeping track of their digital identity and digital footprints i.e. what kinds of images, tweets, comments, they post online are critical digital skills kids must learn before venturing out into the real world.
6) Develop a digital IQ
Just like an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) kids should develop a digital IQ i.e. an ability to think critically when they approach digital media. They should learn early how to navigate between trustworthy websites and websites that may have harmful or false content. When my 8-year-old asks me one of her “why” questions, whether I know the answer or not, my response is typically, “let’s look it up”. We go online together and I’m able to show her which sites are trustworthy and which to avoid. Your children should also learn that anything they look up can be tracked back to them. This is especially important for when they get a job. If they have questions about sex, drugs or other questionable material, googling these topics on a work computer could get them fired. They should learn how to safely look up material without leaving a damaging digital footprint.
5) Manage digital privacy
It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of privacy online. Before they post anything online, they should ask themselves, “Would I feel proud if my parents or employer saw this information about me?” If the answer is no, they should not post it. Additionally, teach them to think twice before providing their name, address, email, etc to websites just because they ask for it. Most definitely they should NOT give out their social security number or bank account information online. Teach them how to spot “phishing” emails and websites that seek to obtain your personal information for their purposes. Not everyone online has their best interests at heart and they should learn this early.
4) Manage screen time
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding screen time apart from video chatting for kids less than 18 months. From 18-24 months screen time should comprise of high quality programming for kids like PBS or Sesame Street. It’s preferable that parents watch these programs with their kids so they can explain what they are seeing. For ages 6 and above, you should place time limits on different kids of media they have access to. It should definitely not replace sleep, schoolwork, outside play etc. Develop a standard approach to screen time that works for your family and stick with it. For example, in our home, our kids don’t watch TV during the week simply because there’s just not enough time to. They can watch TV on the weekends if they’ve completed their homework and chores. There’s no screen time during mealtimes so we can focus on spending time together. There are no televisions or computers allowed in the bedrooms. Computers are located in high traffic areas in our home. Develop a healthy approach to screen time for your family and your kids will be more likely to adopt it as they mature.
3) Develop digital empathy
As kids grow it’s important that they develop their own digital emotional intelligence. That is, an ability to be empathetic and build good relationships with others online. This can be especially true for their social media presence. A good tip for them to remember is if they don’t have anything positive to say about someone online, they should not say anything at all. Additionally, they should avoid saying or writing anything about someone online they would not appreciate if it were written about them.
2) Detect and manage cyberbullying
Along with digital empathy, they should be able to identify cyberbullying and how to handle it. They do not have to be “friends” with anyone online they do not wish to be. They should learn to distance themselves from people who bully others online and should definitely not take part in it. If you are concerned for their safety, you may ask for your child’s login and promise not to use it unless it’s an emergency. Try as much as possible not to penalize kids for being honest about what their social media activities are. They’ll be more likely to come to you with an issue or concern if they feel safe to do so.