One of the biggest challenges parents face today is tackling the issue of digital manners. People of all ages feel empowered by a level of anonymity and physical distance online, and as a result, emails, text messages, and communications on social media are often more harsh and degrading than what would be expressed in person. Simply put, people feel free to be meaner online, and parents must teach their children how to react if someone treats them poorly online, in addition to making sure their child is not saying or posting inappropriate things online.
Here are tips to help parents teach their children about good digital manners.
1. The Golden Rule. Even though you are not talking to someone in person, sending an email or posting on social media does not mean you can ignore The Golden Rule. Explain to children that feelings can get hurt the same in person as online, and that they should always treat others the way they would want to be treated.
2. Use the news. Older children have probably heard about a celebrity being badmouthed or belittled online by critics. Use news stories like this as an opportunity to bring up the subject of online bullying, and talk to older kids to find out if they are victims, or if they might regret something they said online.
3. Supervision is key. It is impossible to teach children to be responsible and respectful online if you have no idea what sites they are visiting or what accounts they use. Parents should monitor children’s Internet activity, restrict the sites they are allowed to visit, and ask for their usernames and passwords. Unless the child is paying for the phone, tablet, or service themselves, ownership belongs to parents, and the child should expect inspections from time to time.
4. Discuss repercussions. Some children are under the impression that their parents are not “tech savvy” and will not be able to discover what they are up to online. Before you give kids the password to the family computer or their own smartphones, discuss what the repercussions will be if you discover they have been unkind to someone online or are acting in other ways that are not approved.
Gregg Murset is CEO of BusyKid and a father of six. Formerly known as My Job Chart, BusyKid.com is a mobile website that helps parents teach children about work ethic, responsibility, accountability, and managing real money.