I’m a mom of 3, a parent educator and a mom blogger (oh, and my friends call me “Safety Susan”). I’ve been concerned about my children’s safety since before they were born. When they were young, safety meant safe car seats and toys. Now that my children are in the tween and teen years, safety includes making safe decisions when using digital technology. I’ve been pleased to learn about the #ShareAwesome program and contest created by National PTA and LifeLock that shares ways that families can create an open, evolving conversation about making positive and safe decisions about using digital technology.
If you’ve been around Organized 31 much, you know that I don’t share my children’s faces or names here. That’s a personal choice, I’ve made for my family’s privacy and safety. As a parent, my goal is to keep my children safe and raise responsible adults. The way to raise a responsible adult is through raising responsible children. Like any aspect of discipline and child rearing, teaching digital responsibility evolves as my children grow older and develop.
Tips to Teaching Kids Digital Responsibility
1. Start teaching positive and safe decision-making skills for digital use early
It’s important to start early talking about online safety and how to make good choices with our children. Children are using technology at a very young age these days, so you can’t wait until they’re a teenager to start teaching good decision-making skills in regards to digital use. The skills that children need to be safe and positive online are the same skills that they need to be safe and make good choices offline. I was so pleased this week when I learned that a family friend of mine texted my daughter to get my daughter’s college address. My friend was sending a gift to my daughter that required the street address and not her mailing address. My daughter checked with me first to confirm my friend’s phone number before sharing her address. I sighed a big sigh knowing that my college-aged daughter really did learn what we’ve taught her.
2. Talk about good digital citizenship with your children and really listen to them.
Focus on talking with your children about your expectations for their online and digital behavior. Be sure to listen to your children and problem solve different online behavior scenarios with them. It’s not enough to just “lay down the law”, you need to help your children figure out how to make good decisions in many different digital situations. And what constitutes a good decision and acceptable behavior will change as your child grows older. I try to work these talks into every day life rather than make them sit down serious talks. And I use open-ended questions to stimulate conversations with my kids so I can learn the real situations they’re facing. in using technology.
3. Build trust with your child around digital use.
Each family handles this differently. I recommend that you are upfront and honest with your child. I let my children know that periodically I’d be checking up on them online. As my oldest daughter said several years ago, “Mom got a Facebook account to stalk me.” I would have said to “monitor” her, but she understood and knew that I would be monitoring. When I did find behavior that needed to be discussed, we discussed it calmly and explained why that was not a good choice. In those cases my child most often didn’t realize why what he/she had done was not a safe choice until we explained it. Once they understood, they no longer made those choices.
4. Keep up with your child’s digital interests.
I confess, I’m not a technology person (I know, ironic for a blogger, right?), but I have accounts in the digital platforms that my children are using. I follow them so that I’m aware of their online behavior. I wouldn’t have as many social media accounts if I didn’t have 3 children. But to be able to discuss safe behavior and good decision-making, I have to understand the ins-and-outs of the platforms they’re using.
5. Using technology is a privilege, not a right.
Your children need to understand that using technology is a privilege that they are able to enjoy if they behave responsibly. They won’t really “die” if they are not able to use it. Just like using the family car, they need to behave responsiblity to earn the privilege of using technology. I only take away their phone, tablet, etc. if they use it irresponsibly. I do not take it away for other misbehavior, like not doing chores. I want to my children to understand that if they are responsible with their digital technology use, then they will keep the privilege of using it and if they are not responsible or displaying good digital citizenship, then they’ll lose the privilege.
The National PTA and Lifelock have joined together to create the #ShareAwesome campaign. You can learn more at the #ShareAwesome website. Be sure to snap a photo of an awesome moment in your day and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the #ShareAwesome hashtag. Students who enter the #ShareAwesome contest between September 15th and November 30th, 2014 will have a chance to win fantastic prizes. Encouraging your kids to enter the contest is the perfect way to lead into a conversation about online behavior and digital citizenship today.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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