Parenting Blog

Talking Online Safety and Raising Digital Citizens

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Last year, I spent a few months as ‘curator of social media content’ for a small company that had made an smartphone app which allowed concerned parents to track their child’s cellphone activity and location. My mission was to position the company, through its social media channels, as a knowledge expert in the field of online safety and digital citizenship. I scoured the web daily for articles, statistics, factoids and news bits relating to kids and technology, and I came away both horrified and encouraged by what I discovered.

Yes, Tinder, Snapchat, and the Dark Web are a hi-tech variation of evil incarnate for families trying to raise decent digital citizens, but there’s another side of the coin too: countless educators, advocates, parents and companies are trying to make online life better, safer, and more productive for everyone. This is a good news story, even if the nightly news doesn’t always paint it as such.

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As a writer and social media influencer (define that as you wish), a fairly substantial portion of my life is lived online, and thus, by proxy, a portion (albeit a smaller one, by choice) of my daughters’ lives exist online for others to consume and make judgements on should they desire. While I still use the Bear and Mouse monikers, more out of habit at this point, instead of their real names when I refer to them in stories (this despite their actual names being ‘out there’ in the world — the Bear, for example, shared a couple of magazine bylines with me when she was 5 or so), I’ve wrestled that potential demon to the mat years ago, realizing that any attempt to maintain a vice grip on privacy is a fool’s errand in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

But this acknowledgment in no way means that exploitation and baring all is the rule of the day. If there is one parent exploiting their kid’s tantrums, failures, or even successes online, it is one too many…and unfortunately we know there are parents out there doing exactly that in an effort to publicly shame their kid and/or to become internet famous themselves.

I try every day to be thoughtful in how I use my girls’ words, ideas and images online. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve been in the habit of asking permission to use photos of them or videos of the funny things they do before I share on my social media channels and on this here website. I respect that they will someday soon have a digital footprint of their own and I do not want to muddy it with anything they might find uncompromising or just too silly for public consumption. Because being a parent in this modern age means having conversations with kids about online safety and modeling good behavior online too, I also talk to them openly about a lot of what I share on Twitter and Instagram, and why I share it. I explain that I would never write anything on social media that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face and that I show as much respect for the people and businesses I interact with online that I have for them in ‘real life’ because social media is real life too, a real part of 21st century life. My girls are growing up knowing that there is power in the social platforms to be heard, to get things done, and to make a living, but with that power comes great responsibility to be an upstanding digital citizen.

This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world.

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2 Comments

  1. Hey, thanks so much for this. It’s very concise. I’m linking to it from my site as well. It’s something we parents need to discuss more and more.

    I get worried sometimes thinking about who may be monitoring or watching my wee ones… but I know there’s ways we can protect and guide them.

    I’m looking forward to building some ground rules with my girls based on what you’ve written here.

  2. Pingback: Continuing the quest for internet safety | Because I Saw It On TV!

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