3 Steps for Back-To-School Digital Success

New backpack? Check. New shoes? Check. Pencil cases, notebooks, erasers. Check. Check. Check.

Back-to-School Digital Plan for Success? Huh? Gotcha on that one.

Okay, Digital Parent Extraordinaire, have you given any thought to how your child can enjoy school and achieve academic success by using technology? That’s right, I said technology and school in the same sentence.

Just because I am a child’s rights advocate and firm supporter of digital parenting in today’s tech world, doesn’t stop me from being an advocate of technology in education. I believe that every child has the right - and even obligation in today’s digital world - to become a responsible digital citizen. Our children need to know how to use the Internet and technology safely, wisely and in furtherance of their learning and leisure activities.

Defining Digital Literacy

The US Department of Education defined digital literacy in three ways:

  1. The ability to use information well—to find it, consume it, analyze it, and leverage it to solve a problem.
  2. The ability to use media and digital technologies to communicate and collaborate effectively.
  3. The development of digital citizenship.

Karen Cator, Former Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Dept of Education, further stated: “Just as we have always worked with students to play well on the playground, we need to make sure they learn to behave well in an online environment.”

Enter the digital parent and your Back-to-School Plan for Digital Success.

STEP ONE: Help your child use information well.

Not only should you help your child access technology, whether at school, a public library, a community center or in your home, but you should also participate as much as you can in their online activities. An involved parent is an informed parent and The Parent Zone advises you to ask: Who are they talking to? What are they doing online? Where are they going online?

Based on the responses, you can guide your child on sources of appropriate information and resources. Worried that you don’t have a tech background? The majority of the parents that I speak to wouldn’t know a piece of code if it reached out and bit them BUT they do understand how to use their offline parenting skills online. Think about it. Do you change your parenting style just because you’re in another country? Ditto for the digital world. Same parenting responsibilities, same goals: responsible children.

STEP TWO: Understand how your child can use media and digital technologies to communicate and collaborate.

If there is something that all parents have to come terms with it is this fact: Internet, media and digital technologies are here to stay. Translation: more apps, more watches, more digital toys that we don’t need, but all secretly want.

Don’t panic. Parent. If you understand that the benefits of digital technologies outweigh the harm (always with appropriate limits), you will be able to positively parent and support your child as they navigate the digital highway.

Pew Research study just published findings that parents rely on social media to communicate and collaborate with family and friends and to find support on parenting issues. For parents, social media is widely viewed as a source of information – all the more so for our children. In my opinion, this is one more reason to understand how your children are using digital technologies and support them in the proper usage.

STEP THREE: Guide your child in responsible digital citizenship.

Just as we teach our children to be responsible, contributing members of society, we must make sure that they are responsible members of the digital society as well.

Check out FOSI’s Digital Citizenship Flashcards to guide your child in being safe and responsible online.

Another way to help your child become a responsible digital citizen is to focus on kindness and bravery. In the words of Anne Collier, founder of Net Family News and I Can Helpline (soon to be launched social media helpline for schools): “Kindness and bravery are a decision we all have to make multiple times a day, of course, now in digital spaces as much as physical ones – hopefully, for our digital natives, more and more in digital spaces in school, where they can practice safely and with a teacher’s kind supervision.”

And as always, even though Internet, social media, apps and games can all be used in furtherance of your child’s education, don’t forget to be firm with screen limits and be a good digital role model yourself.

Let me know how your Back to School Digital Plan worked for you. I would love to hear from you.

Written by

Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov

Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov is a mom to two tech-savvy little boys, a lawyer, law professor and eSafety consultant.

She is a member of the Working Group of experts on Digital Citizenship Education and an independent expert on Digital Parenting and Children and Internet for the Children’s Rights Division of Council of Europe.

She is an advisor on European Cooperation and International Projects for e-Enfance, a French online child protection association providing support to parents and children in the digital age.

Her core work involves researching solutions for parenting in the digital age and she has authored several guides and workbooks for parents, moderates a Facebook community for parents and is the founder of DigitalParentingCoach.com. a website and community with resources for parents.