When asked what he thought of Western Civilization, Mahatma Gandhi reportedly quipped, “I think it would be a good idea.” If he were alive today, I think Gandhi would also have thought that the Internet was more than just a good idea. No doubt he would have a large and dynamic social media presence.
His pithy quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world” would have been a perfect length for a tweet. And his admonition has inspired the theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day, being celebrated today in over 100 countries and on every continent.
Given the recent political upheavals in the US and in Europe, this is a particularly good time to remind ourselves and our children about the need to practice good digital citizenship online. To be an upstander and not a bystander if you see bullying or harassing messages or videos. To report rather than spread abusive, inappropriate or illegal images. And, for us adults, to be good digital role models in spite of the way some of our political leaders behave online.
In these uncertain and fractious times, let’s use the web to reach out, connect and share with others outside our comfort zone. We should show our children, teens and young people that we understand and follow the norms and behaviors that build and support community online.
At FOSI we developed the 7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting precisely to guide parents through the maze of issues and concerns that arise with the sometimes volatile mix of kids and digital technology. Parents of young children should use parental controls to filter out the worst of the web and monitoring and privacy settings for their older kids.
But by far the most effective tool is a regular conversation with your kids about the devices they use, where they go online, the content they access, the people they contact and how they conduct themselves online. And in those conversations, to convey your family values and instill in them a sense of what is right and wrong in both the physical as well as the digital world and to act accordingly.
Empower them to make wise decisions and to creatively explore the vast potential the web has to offer. I’m sure Gandhi would have agreed.