Parenting Blog

The Girl Scout Badge for Digital Citizenship

DomainME online authenticity conversation with kids girl scout digital citizenship badge

The sands of time will continue to slip by but there’s comfort in knowing that much of parenting life remains the same. The hemline of our pants changes with every generation, but the decades and centuries do little to alter the basic marching order of any parent: keep our kids safe, feed them, give them shelter, teach them to survive on their own, send them out into the world when ready.

Parenting conversations however, those are a different story altogether. The dialogue we must have with our kids changes dramatically year to year — heck, from week to week! — as we fling forward into the technological future. I mean, could you imagine a Girl Scout troop working on a digital citizenship badge as recently as even 5 years ago let alone 50 years back?

In 2016, digital citizenship and online authenticity are two of the most essential pieces of the parenting puzzle. The stone tablet generation never had to contend with this kind of thing, but we do.

I recently sat down with the Bear, who is a kind of ‘freelance Girl Scout’ this year, a Juliette to be specific, to discuss social media profiles, what to share about oneself and how to authentically put your personality in front of a world of strangers while still maintaining some kind of privacy, because while it might seem trivial, one’s profile is the gateway into who they are — or who they will pretend to be — online and on social media.

As part of earning her badge, she had to interview me about how I handle being authentic and what ‘front door’ info I provide in my profiles to those curious web-searching strangers. The social media profiles for OWTK are short but authentic to a fault, as is my official bio used for my freelance writing gigs. I talked to my oldest daughter about my desire to showcase the fact that I am a dad, first and foremost, (I always list that first) but that I also do other things that are important to me too and that’s vital to put a meaningful and authentic frame around my profile picture. My social media profiles serve as a sort of mission statement for me as an artist and digital citizen.

Let’s look at Instagram specifically, because that’s my favorite social media platform. I focus mainly on the travel and parenthood side of things in a real way that, while without a doubt curated, hopefully never feels plastic or scrubbed. Here’s a recent example that perfectly illustrated how I balance the need to show followers what I/we are doing while keeping the majority of my private life private and keeping my phone in my pocket while experiencing life with my family.

This was a pretty rad day. I had just gotten back from a long trip out west, picked up the Bear from her first ‘just because’ / non-birthday party sleepover at a friend’s house and headed into Philly for an annual performing arts street fair. It was either that, the art museum or a Union soccer match. She decided for the wandering up and down Broad Street and it was a perfect choice. We had a brilliant time taking photos with our phones, eating street food, watching performances and, in this case, literally stopping to smell the flowers. I asked her to crouch down behind that potted/hanging planter because I thought it would look cool, and I think I was correct. The important thing from my viewpoint is that this is the only photo I shared socially from the day. Some people pump out a steady stream of images and thoughts live during their family time and while that might be some kind authentic it’s way too much for me. I usually pick one sweet shot that sums up the vibe or my feelings on any given experience and share it a little bit after the fact. This way, my audience get a small, but very real slice of my life and I get to experience that life as free from technological distractions as possible.

How do you stay real online and on social media? Have you had digital citizenship conversations with your kids yet?

This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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