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Starting the Digital Citizenship Conversation

This blog post first appeared on DrGreene.com. Read the original post here

The Oxford Dictionaries named “Selfie” their 2013 Word of the Year – proof that technology is shaking things up and that devices, apps, and services aren’t going anywhere fast. 

But even though these terms and technologies are becoming a part of the common vernacular, keeping on the pulse of where kids interact online can prove challenging for many parents. 

So instead of trying to stay ahead of the beast, let’s set kids up with the skills they need to be responsible on whatever new app or buzz worthy photo-sharing site comes their way. Let’s give them the confidence to do the right thing whether parents are there to supervise or not. 

Teaching Digital Citizenship 

Teaching responsibility online is no different than teaching it offline. It just so happens that when it comes to the online part, there is an easy term to define those conversations. It’s called digital citizenship. 

While there are many elements to digital citizenship, it can best be summarized as skills and abilities that allow users to participate safely, proactively, and respectfully online. 

Participating Safely

Kids need to understand how to use technology safely. There are infinite services and settings out there to help them protect their information, privacy, and reputation. It’s our job to talk to them and help them realize the importance of using these tools, and to be there to listen and support should anything unsafe or bad ever happen. 

Acting Proactively 

Just like we would encourage kids to call the police if they saw an accident offline, we need to encourage kids to step-up and do the right thing online. That means, not sitting back and standing-by if bullies are bullying, reporting inappropriate content, and anticipating how what they say or do online might affect themselves or others down the road. 

Behaving Respectfully 

Teaching kids have dignity, to respect themselves and others, and to feel empathy is no easy task. But it is easily the most important focus when it comes to understanding and advancing digital citizenship. Let’s remind kids that online, just as offline, we must treat others the way they want to be treated. 

If we can teach kids to apply many of the same standards they use in the physical world, to the digital world, the Internet will be a much better and more positive place for all of us to interact, learn, have fun, and of course, take selfies. 

Cover image from DrGreene.com