As parents, we constantly teach our children how to be good citizens. As more and more of our lives happen digitally, it’s important that our kids also understand how to be good digital citizens.
The misuse of technology can have a profound impact on children’s social skills. Many schools switched to online learning to control the outbreak of Covid-19.
As a result, children are requiring support to develop pertinent skills such as maintaining eye contact, starting and continuing conversations, and making friends with one another.
Socializing online is important, too.
This article will unpack the importance of developing online social skills and provide tips to help you teach your children the best possible digital etiquette.
Understanding Digital Etiquette
Digital Etiquette refers to the rules of appropriate conduct and interacting with others in the digital world. Children need to grow up understanding digital etiquette since much of their lives will be spent online.
As children, they may have courses and activities online. Their digital footprints will likely increase as they enter adulthood and attend post-secondary education and ultimately, the workforce.
Even if they attend school and work in person, digital communication typically occurs via email, online discussion forums, and more.
How children conduct themselves online reflects how they present themselves outside of the digital world.
As parents, it is our role to break down the ‘do’s and don’t’s’ in ways that make sense to our children. If we teach digital etiquette to our children when they’re young, we are setting them up for success.
Establishing Rules and Guidelines
A good way to promote digital etiquette is to create a Family Technology Contract. The concept of digital etiquette is extremely abstract, and children need to know how to take steps in the right direction.
Make a list on a piece of paper comparing the ‘do’s and don’t’s’ and put it in a prominent place in the home to help them familiarize themselves with it. Take a look at Bark’s Technology Contract for inspiration.
It is also important to remember that children do not enter this world with the level of knowledge and experience that we have.
Although we’ve explained the differences between right and wrong countless times, children need us to provide relatable examples to help them understand the consequences of their behavior in the digital world.
For instance, if we speak to others in an unkind and disrespectful way, we could hurt others. And if we share too much of our personal information, we could put ourselves at risk.
As they grow up, stay on top of their communications to ensure they are being safe and respectful. When they communicate with others, check the history on all their apps and read their conversations.
Demonstrating Good Digital Manners
When your children were small and you wanted to teach them table manners, you had to physically show them how to sit at the dinner table and use their forks and knives.
Teaching digital manners look different, but you still need to show them what appropriate looks like.
Be mindful of your language when you communicate in group chats and email threads with family members abroad.
When we are sitting behind a screen, it is easy to forget that we are communicating with a real human with thoughts and feelings.
Pay attention to how your children are interacting with relatives so that you can street them in the right direction where necessary.
Teaching About the Dangers of Cyberbullying
Teaching digital etiquette is a crucial step in the prevention of cyberbullying — a type of bullying that occurs over digital platforms such as social media, gaming, and messaging. Due to the nature of cyberbullying, it can be very difficult to identify.
Sings of cyberbullying include:
- Appearing nervous or hurt when children check notifications on their devices.
- Being secretive with technology use.
- Avoiding certain people and social situations.
- Avoiding certain technology and apps.
To identify and prevent cyberbullying, it is important that your child feels safe and heard. Give them examples of cyberbullying, and let them know that they can come to you with anything and you will not judge them.
Keep track of what they’re doing on their devices and whom they are speaking with.
Check in with them regularly to monitor how they are feeling and acting, and make sure they know that if something is not right, help is available and you will be there to support them with your arms wide open.
Fostering Independent Thinking
It has never been easier to publish information on digital platforms than it is today. When children are browsing the web, they must know what is factual and what isn’t.
If a child comes to you with an unrealistic theory about the earth being flat, for instance, do not laugh in their face. Instead, ask them to show it to you and help them dissect it:
- Who published the article? If it’s a single blogger with zero credentials, it may be false.
- Is it a reliable source? If it’s published by a well-known news platform with high research and journalistic standards, you can likely trust the information.
- Is anyone profiting from the information being shared? Ads and popups are reasonable indications that you’ve been lured by clickbait.
Our role as parents is transforming as new technologies are rapidly developing. Proper digital etiquette will help our children maintain positive behaviors online. Not only can we help our children be kind and respectful to others. We can also help our children stay safe as they navigate their use in digital spaces.