[Digital Literacy] 4 Tips for Parents to Teach Kids About Responsible Technology Use

Friday, September 30, 2016 -- Megan Sternke

As technology becomes more integral to your child’s education, it’s important to understand both the benefits and the potential drawbacks it presents. Challenges can arise for parents as children grow old enough for screen time, online content, cyberbullying threats, and general online safety to be concerns. Teaching your child to successfully manage these situations is key to helping him or her take full advantage of the technology at his or her fingertips and become good digital citizens. To help, we’ve put together some of our favorite basic digital literacy tips for parents.

Digital Citizenship

When your child goes online, he or she enters into a whole new community with its own set of rules and norms. Becoming a proper digital citizen takes time, but with regularly prompting and practice, your child will quickly be demonstrating responsible technology use. Consistently remind your child to never share passwords, avoid strangers, use trustworthy information sources, be respectful to others on social networks and other forums, and always report any suspicious or mean behavior.

Tip: These reminders may seem like basic knowledge to parents, but keep in mind that it’s new information for children just beginning to use technology. Having conversations like this before your child enters the digital world helps establish ground rules and set expectations.

Media Monitoring

Depending on what is accessible, a typical day for most children includes a mix of a TV, Internet, social media, video games, and cellphone use. This is a lot of media exposure, especially given that children are more susceptible to influences than adults. Make sure that you know the type of content your child is viewing on a regular basis, and determine if it is age-appropriate or not.

Tip: Evaluate media as a family. Give each member of your family an opportunity to share his or her values and talk about whether certain entertainment sources align with him or her. It also paves the way for deeper family discussions on how media relates to real-life situations, which will help your child develop a broader understanding of the world.

Internet Safety and Online Privacy

The Internet is a great resource for research, but easy access to data means that it can be a gateway for others to get hold of your child’s information as well. Clearly communicate to your child what type of information is and is not okay to share online. This can go deeper than just making sure that your child doesn’t share personal information; elaborate on what type of content is appropriate to share and post on social networks. Remind your child that the second something is posted online, he or she loses control over it. Anyone else will be able to easily save or share the post (whether it’s an article, a piece of personal writing, photos, videos, or anything else), and your child may never know.

Tip: Take advantage of Internet privacy settings. Devices, browsers, and online programs (including social networks) offer options to limit the audience of posts, use nicknames or usernames, or turn off location settings. These small changes can make a world of difference to your child’s safety online.

Clear Communication

Sometimes, the meaning of a message can be misinterpreted because of the way it’s delivered. This is especially true when it comes to communication online, which doesn’t have the added context of face-to-face interaction. Help your child understand that when something is posted online, the people who see it won’t necessarily interpret it in the way that he or she expects. For example, your child may post a Facebook status update intended to be lighthearted and funny, but it could hurt the feelings of a classmate who reads it. Emphasize the importance of being thoughtful about any messages posted online, and coach your child to address issues that arise from ambiguous online communication in person to avoid more confusion and escalation.

Tip: Remind your child to always think before typing. Encourage him or her to analyze the different ways his or her writing could be interpreted and to be respectful at all times. The Internet should be an entertaining, informative, and safe community for everyone.

Building digital literacy skills and becoming a good digital citizen are certainly parts of a learning process. Digital literacy is also a moving target, as technology and online communities continue to evolve. The key is to always keep respect at the forefront and treat online interactions like any other human interaction. With intentional conversations and regular reminders, you can help your child start building these skills today!

Looking for more tips? Visit Common Sense Media for helpful documents to promote safe, responsible, and effective technology use in your household. Also, check out this blog post to dive deeper into the importance of digital literacy!