Just as parents are responsible for teaching their children to be good citizens, the digital age also tasks them with raising good digital citizens. Today’s generation constantly uses some form of technology, whether it be a tablet, cell phone or computer. With this amount of freedom, children must be prepared to responsibly use the Internet as early as possible.

Teens today are more at risk for being contacted by sexual predators, being cyber bullied and becoming addicted to pornography. In fact, according to statistics compiled by GuardChild.com, 44% of young teenagers have viewed inappropriate content online without their parent’s knowledge, and only 15% of parents are truly involved in their child’s digital life. Therefore, it is crucial that parents begin educating their children at a young age about the importance of being good digital citizens.

Being a good digital citizen is similar to being a good person in day to day life. Treating people with respect, being responsible and polite or not talking to strangers are common lessons that parents already teach their children. Here are a few points to focus on when teaching your child to be a safe, smart digital citizen.

1. Follow The Golden Rule
Being respectful and considerate is necessary to succeed in all aspects of life, especially online. If your child is chatting with friends or commenting on posts, they should use the same courtesy over their screen as they would face to face.

2. Be Aware Of Inappropriate Content And Report It To An Adult
Sometimes a child may be conducting a harmless Internet search which produces inappropriate content. (Try Googling whitehouse.com if you don’t believe it.) Teaching your child to immediately alert an adult when any online sites they should not see appear on screen can prevent pornography exposure and solicitation from predators, even though it may be uncomfortable or embarrassing to share.

3. Educate About Safe Technology Usage
Though it may seem like not talking to strangers is implied, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to situations in chat rooms or those involving peer pressure. Talking to your child about which sites are safe to visit, and when to leave a site, is imperative to their safety.

4. Practice Self Control
Many kids and teenagers spend hours online; it has become accepted as the norm. However, a study conducted by UCLA showed that the longer children went without screen time, the better they were able to relate to others. Teaching your child to limit the amount of time they spend online can have positive impacts on their social life and academics.

5. Appreciate Technology, Don’t Abuse It
The Internet is a tool to be used for education, and occasionally entertainment. Children can use technology to help them study, watch interesting videos or play games in their free time. However, sometimes technology can become an outlet for aggression, and children can start to turn to the digital sphere for release that can eventually get them into trouble. Appreciating the true purpose of technology is vital to good digital citizenship.

When using the Internet, it may seem easier to act inappropriately than it would in the real world. However, it is important to remember that these actions are not without consequence. The earlier parents are able to teach their children about the lasting effects of the Internet and how to practice good digital citizenship, the easier it will be for children to develop those habits into a lifestyle.

Once children are familiar with the hallmarks of good digital citizenship, they will be well-equipped to use the tools necessary to take precautions against potentially dangerous or harmful situations.

Laura Jane Crocker


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