By reading this blog post, checking your phone or making a Google search, you are acting as a digital citizen. A digital citizen is a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities. This includes understanding how your online activity affects yourself and others. A responsible digital citizen chooses to make intentional, conscientious decisions online because they are aware of the potential consequences that come with the irresponsible use of technology.
It is important to realize that being a responsible digital citizen is a reflection of your online reputation. Children are growing up surrounded by digital devices, not knowing a world without them, and they must learn to take responsibility for their actions online. Your child's online reputation is dependent on everything they post as well as what others post about them. Ideally, you should have a talk with your child about the importance of a positive online reputation before they create a digital footprint with social media accounts. However, if your child is already interacting and posting online, know that it is never too late to educate them on becoming a responsible digital citizen. Instilling this mindset early on will help them form healthy digital habits and protect their reputation both on and offline.
If your child learns to use social media with intention, they can successfully build a positive digital reputation for themself. This intention starts with the basic components like their username, password, bio and privacy settings. For kids, it’s a good idea to have a username that doesn’t include their legal name or anything that would attract the wrong attention. For their password, use at least 8 characters, include symbols, capital letters, lowercase letters, make it unique and try to update it every few months. As annoying as it can be, use a different password for every account they have to protect them from bots and hackers. If necessary, make note of their username and passwords so that they aren’t having to constantly change their login information.
For their account bios, make sure they omit their age, school, hometown, full name or any other personal information as this can usually be seen by anyone. At a young age, we also recommend that your child make all of their accounts private to protect them from strangers or any potentially dangerous situations. Even when they take these precautions, know that their information can still be seen by people they don’t know.
Once you and your child have expectations for what their account will look like, discuss the community they plan to build and the type of content they will post. An account that reflects a positive online reputation has age-appropriate content that could potentially be seen by thousands of people. What criteria do their followers need to meet in order to be accepted? Will it ONLY be friends and family that they know personally or will they open it up to friends of friends? Having this discussion is extremely important so that your child thinks before adding anyone to their online community who could negatively impact their online reputation.
Next, set guidelines for the content they plan to post on their accounts. Will your child be able to confidently show their social media account to a teacher or principal without getting into any trouble? Even though they are young, teach them that anything posted online stays with them forever, including comments and private messages. A positive account is free of any blatantly or passively aggressive cyberbullying behavior. When prioritizing their digital reputation, know that they can only post about others when they have permission from that person, so that they never put anyone else’s digital reputation at risk.
Telling your child to only friend people they know and to never post personal information is a great first step. But, being consistent is where it gets tough. As a parent, it’s exhausting to manually monitor everything they post, especially when you have multiple children exploring multiple social platforms. Cyber Dive created monitoring tools for modern parents to remain involved past the initial conversation of setting digital guidelines. We understand that every parent will have different expectations for their child’s online activity and our data was meant to be used as a resource when following through and enforcing these guidelines, regardless of parenting style.
Cyber Dive was created to keep parents involved in the most effective and efficient way possible while providing children with the freedom to explore and express themselves online. By monitoring your child’s activity, they are held accountable knowing their parents are seeing what they post, who they friend, what others post of them, concerning private messages, words/hashtags they use, how much time they are spending online and more. The goal is for your child to have a clear understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen and see the benefit in keeping their online presence appropriate and free of negative content.