You must Become a Digital Citizen Before you can Raise One

Digital citizenship is a phrase that parents today, did not relate to growing up. But now, our kids are immersed in the digital world and we are scrambling to keep up with them. Along with traditional bullying, stealing and voyeurism we now have to educate ourselves on cyberbullying, identity theft, trolls and internet luring. All while being good digital citizens ourselves and raising them.

What even is a digital citizen? 

The simplified answer is someone who uses the internet appropriately and responsibly. So digital citizenship refers to navigating the digital world responsibly and ethically. That sounds easy enough. But how do we raise good digital citizens when our kids are navigating technology at warp speeds compared to their parents. How do we encourage digital citizenship when our kids already “know everything about everything” and they are the ones setting up our new phone and downloading apps for us?

Dr. Mike Ribble, author of “Raising a Digital Child” states that digital citizenship is not meant to be a set of rules, but rather a framework for parents and educators regarding the issues surrounding technology and how children are using that technology. Parents must shift their mindset and adapt their rules at home to keep up with the rapid advancement of technology. It is no longer an option for us to woefully turn a blind eye to our kids’ online activities. Taking a child’s phone away or cutting them off from accessing the internet are not viable solutions to keeping them safe. Teaching them how to use technology appropriately and responsibly is what will ensure they thrive in our digital world. And that starts with us. 

So, how are we able to raise good digital citizens when our kids are out-Snapping and YouTubing us behind? We are able because our kids still depend on us for guidance and mentorship online and offline. By establishing rules at home regarding tech use and by abiding by these rules ourselves, we are mentoring digital citizens. 

Here are a few simple things parents can do now to model good digital citizenship:

  • Ask your kids for permission before you post a photo of them online. Not only are you showing them the respect you want to see them reciprocate to their friends and family, you are giving them more control over their own digital footprint.
  • Be curious about what your kids are doing online. Ask them to teach you about Snapchat or Musical.ly. Not only will you get a glimpse into their digital life but they will feel good teaching you a thing or two.
  • Create some device-free time. During meal time, family movie night or even while out for a dog walk.
  • Resist the urge to use your phone while driving. You have little eyes in the back seat who are watching and learning. If it’s acceptable for mom or dad to to text and drive, then it’s acceptable for them too. It’s just not worth it.

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”   - John Dewey

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