There are rules and then there are rules for kids. A set of rules for school, another defined set at games, and a complete set of unwritten rules at home. But there is one field that our kids traverse almost daily, spending hours there at their own free will, mostly unsupervised—the cyber world. Yet few of us know or practice rules that guide online behavior. But then it’s not really our fault for we ourselves are so new to it! We are what are called digital immigrants- new to the cyber world, newly discovering the immense potential, and also the threats, of the Internet. So we are not really knowledgeable enough to guide our kids or set rules for them.
So does that mean we raise our hands in desperation, and let our children find their own way on the net? Let them fare blindly without knowing how to behave, communicate and conduct oneself online, and thus make errors, get into trouble, and be misunderstood?
There is a simple solution. Extend your life skill lessons and values that you impart to your kids to cover the virtual world too. Though kids today are very impudent, believing they know everything that there is to know; parents still have the advantage of age and experience over them. That’s why you parents are so important in your child’s life. You are the right people who can teach them how to surf safely. That’s why Joanna Jullien opines you must position yourself as “Chief Network Advisor.”
The virtual world is very much like the real world and so many real world behavioral rules apply here too. The first and foremost being that famous Biblical principle:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
We do teach our children to practice
Don’t we? Why not do the same for all online activities?
In all their communications, comments and shares, children should be attentive to the fact that they don’t appear rude, boorish, insensitive or sly. It does well to remember, what’s written and shared online remains there forever. It can cause future embarrassments. Take care of salutations and language and do respond on time.
Children should be taught early to be mindful of their environment, their words and actions. That way they can avoid many problems. Online, one must be extra careful. When dashing off a mail, slow down and recheck. Is it addressed to the right recipient/s including CC/BCC; the salutation and subject lines are correct and there are no spelling errors.
Or when sharing content, one must first verify the facts before sharing. Many careless shares have led to ugly social media spats, political unrest, resignations of people in high places and end of relationships.
Similarly, when commenting on posts or uploading pictures, think hard before you click ‘post’. Is it necessary? Relevant? True? Embarrassing or humiliating to anyone? Incendiary in content? A virus?
Right place to remind you of the magic mantra I had earlier shared, “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.”
Portia had said “The quality of mercy is not strained…” It’s better to be a little less aggressive and a little more understanding. Teach kids to think before replying or sharing online. Does this sound true or is it motivated? What can the possible outcomes of a reply be? Let them steer clear of any communication that harbor on bullying, abusing or spreading canards. Sometimes, content is misinterpreted and quarrels occur, just like in real life. Words are tools that can either be used as swords to wound or balm to soothe. Teach kids to communicate clearly and specifically and desist from posting comments when angry
Every person should expect to be treated decently and be decent in return. This is the basic right of every human being. It does well to remember that today there are several cyber laws that punish indecent actions online. Unfortunately, the online world is filled with stuff that is not suitable for an underage child’s eyes. In addition, some people think nothing of sharing slang/inappropriate language or adult content when on social media. There are chatrooms where children can become victims of indecent behavior. So a child must learn online etiquette and be encouraged to turn to a parent for advice when faced with indecent or inappropriate content. And of course bullying; children should be taught to expect decency always and therefore not accept any kind of bullying.
Be truthful. That is an important value lesson to give to a child. Speak the truth and post only what you are sure is the truth. It does well to remember that any contortion or omission of truth is a lie. This includes violation of piracy, plagiarizing and or unauthorized downloading and sharing of content. Such action may lead to trouble in a future time, if not in the present. Let kids know that if they are not sure of the source or the content, they must add a disclaimer to their post. Teach them the difference between free and copyrighted material as well as the need for taking responsibility for what they share online.
If you do this much, you can be sure that your child will have a wonderfully rich and satisfying experience online, successfully avoiding the pitfalls on the way.
And here’s how you can doubly ensure children stay safe online. By installing McAfee Total Protection on all internet-enabled devices you have and turn on parental controls. That way, you will be informed remotely if your children connect with strangers or use inappropriate language. Along with a host of other features all aimed at keeping your precious ones, your devices and your data safe. Check here to know more.
Here’s wishing your kids a happy cyberlife!