Online Harmony: Steps your whole family can take to be good digital citizens

Online Harmony: Steps your whole family can take to be good digital citizens

I'm so pleased to welcome  Denise Lisi DeRosa with a guest post about ways we can all - parents and kids - take achieve online harmony and be good digital citizens. Denise is an expert in online safety, media literacy and a frequent speaker on parenting in the digital age.

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The Internet is an integral part of life in America, and as President Obama recently said, “The Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity.” It's not going anywhere, and so now is the time to do what we can to create a safe and welcoming online environment for everyone. Part of being a good citizen is being a good digital citizen. How can you help?

Here are some suggestions for what you can do to make cyberspace a place for the whole family, and our extended community, to enjoy. And chances are if you take these steps, and your kids see you take them, they're likely to follow suit.

One Goal, A Shared Responsibility

Parents can agree that we’d prefer for all of our kids’ interactions online to be positive, but that is just not the case. So what can be done?

First, large social media companies need to be a part of the solution. Many have systems in place that discourage bad behavior on their platforms. FacebookTwitterReddit, and others include programs to combat online bullying, harassment and troll behavior. (Those links will take you to the safety centers for each network.)

These systems, however, work only if users know how to use them.

Parents should educate themselves on the safety tools put in place by any social media platform that they themselves, or their kids are using. It is also important to make sure your tweens and teens know the tools that exist to help, too.

Shut Down the Bullies

There is a lot of negativity online. Insults are hurled, sometimes anonymously, at celebrities, athletes, politicians, our neighbors, and our kids. Each and every one of us needs to take action against the trolling. Call out the bad actors. If you see someone bullying online, or spouting rumors, or just generally being negative towards someone, say something.

To borrow from Albert Einstein, the Internet could become a cesspool of negativity “not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Empower yourself and your kids with anti-bullying resources such as Stopit!, iCanHelp, #BeStrong and encourage your community to be proactive ‘upstanders’ not bystanders to cyberbullying.

Show Restraint When Sharing

The whole world does not need to know every moment of your day. You don’t need to live-tweet your every move or share every photo of your adorable dog. After awhile, it’s only cute to you. Share true highlights, not every detail of your life. Encourage your teens to follow this advice as well.

Also, be mindful of the digital footprint you are leaving to your child. Do you really need to share that bathtub photo with the world? Will your future teen appreciate that when they take control of their online presence? Think about what might later be embarrassing to your son or daughter.

There are ways to share photos and posts with a select few. Employ the select audience features on social media, especially when sharing news, photos or stories about your children.

Don’t Replace Face-to-Face Interactions with Technology

It is wonderful that the Internet offers us the ability to stay in touch with loved ones all over the globe, but don’t use technology in place of seeing those you can in person. Don’t text when you can call. Don’t only follow someone on Facebook if you could just as easily meet him or her for coffee.

Use technology as one, but not the only way, to stay connected. When you use technology in balance with to face-to-face connections, your kids will too.

Help Others

Ensure that loved ones are connecting safely, especially novices like seniors unfamiliar with digital technologies or little ones who are handed down devices from older siblings. Use resources like Techboomers that are designed with seniors in mind. Remember to set parental controls on devices as you hand them over to younger children and offer age-appropriate content for each of your kids.

Being good digital citizens requires that each and every one of us who uses and benefits from the connected world take ownership of it’s culture and climate.

Remember to be your best self online and set the example for your children to behave with thoughtfulness and kindness online.

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SFphotocroppDenise Lisi DeRosa is a Tech Parenting Consultant and founder of Cyber-Sensible.com. She is an expert in online safety, a blogger for the Huffington Post and a frequent speaker on parenting in the digital age. Denise has a Master's Degree in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University and 10 plus years of experience with highly recognized media brand organizations like AOL, VH1 and Comedy Central. You can learn more about Denise at www.Cyber-Sensible.com.

You May Also Like: 5 tips for parents of kids playing games online (also by Denise)

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