A focus on cybersafe education is helping children to become a lot smarter in managing their safety online and is assisting parents to be savvier in monitoring their children’s online activities. However, the promotion of good digital citizenship must move beyond safety aspects alone and focus on the digital skills and attributes required to promote good online habits that will serve children
well now and into the future.
Martine Oglethorpe’s article, “Moving beyond cyber safety for happy, resilient digital kids,” expertly outlines the types of social and emotional skills and behaviours which can contribute to developing positive digital habits in children.
The online world opens us up to comments, judgements and even abuse from people known and unknown, all coming from diverse backgrounds and situations, all with different beliefs, and all with extra keyboard courage or anonymity. While we would like to be promoting kindness and respect online, this is not always the reality. We need our kids to be able to recognise and move on from the people whose opinions do not matter. The greater audience and the permanence of the online world also mean the effects of mistakes are magnified. They need to be able to withstand the very permanent and public nature of this world. There may always be a party they are not invited to or a sleepover they were excluded from, so how will they deal with the constant flow of images appearing in their social media feeds?
Self-esteem away from the screens
There will always be comparison online. With access to so much and so many, there will always be someone prettier, smarter, skinnier, with more friends, more likes or more followers. We need to be constantly working on the self-esteem of our kids, both online and off. Conversations about our self-worth, where that comes from, whose opinion matters, what success and happiness look like. These all need to form part of the equation; not just how many likes you get on your latest selfie.
Our kids need skills to know how to handle different situations that arise online. Do they know how to abort a conversation that is going badly? How do they speak up in a group chat when someone is being excluded or spoken about nastily? How do they deal with unwanted attention online? Do they have the words to respond to a nasty comment? Should they respond? As so much of their social life and connection to others will be based on online conversations, these are just some of the skills our kids need to have to keep those interactions positive.
The earlier we start with good habits, the greater chance we have of them becoming behaviours they adopt throughout adolescents and beyond. So, start out with your own rules to ensure these habits are formed. Maybe it is no devices an hour before bed, no devices in the bedroom, no devices at the dinner table, asking permission before sharing pictures of others. Making sure there is plenty of time for friends, extra curricular activities, outside play, chores, homework and good sleep. These all help us oversee our time management and the control we have over our devices, so they don’t end up controlling us.
There is so much content online, so our kids need to be good at determining that which is real, fake, relevant, helpful and worthwhile. This can be a challenging task (even for adults), but a crucial skill. Critical thinking must be an ongoing process every time they watch a video, look at a photo, read an article or connect with someone. Why was this written or produced? Is the language bias? Are they trying to sell me something? Is there research to back up their claims? Would this video have a warning if it was on TV? Is this worth my time? These are just some of the critical thinking questions kids need to be asking themselves every time they consume content online.
Reference: Martine Oglethorpe, “Moving beyond cyber safety for happy, resilient digital kids” published online in Parenting Ideas, February 20, 2018 at https://www.parentingideas.com.au/2018/02/moving-beyond-cyber-safety-for-happy-resilient-digital-kids/