Teaching Our Children Digital Respect

What Does It Mean To Be A Respectful Digital Citizen?

For those of us born in the 1980s or 90s, we tend to understand our offline and online lives as separate entities. Many of us grew up in households without a high-speed internet connection and spent our time playing outdoors, getting dirty rough-housing in the backyard, or scraping our knees falling off our new bikes.

Today, we know to turn our digital devices off for a “digital detox” break for 30 minutes, an evening or weekend, or while on vacation. In our daily lives as adults, we understand the online world and digital etiquette, knowing full well that how we choose to portray ourselves on Instagram, may be hiding certain, truer aspects of our lives. We may have a different way of presenting ourselves entirely when interacting in digital spaces.

For the youth and children of today, their online and offline worlds are melding into one existence. They have been born into the Digital Age, which is why we must teach “Digital Respect” to our children while they’re young, before they can access the internet unsupervised. It’s part of building their awareness and practice of good Digital Citizenship.

The word “respect” means: to treat something or someone with kindness and care. When we apply this word to the digital space, Digital Respect is referring to this same kindness and care for ourselves, our communities, and strangers online when it comes to:

  1. Respecting Feelings
  2. Respecting Property
  3. Respecting Privacy

Respecting Feelings

Many online users feel more comfortable saying things in an online space that they would never say to someone’s face. When you’re teaching your child about manners, it is important to remind them to be kind to everyone in-person and online. With the growing number of social media platforms and online games, children will inevitably meet and interact with many different people online and need to know to be respectful of others’ feelings by not saying anything rude, negative, or inconsiderate online. One easy rule of thumb you can teach them is:

“Only post positive thoughts or comments online. If you’re feeling upset about something someone has said, tell a parent and do not reply.”

Respecting Property

The internet is a wonderful place for us to share ideas, art, videos, photos, and music, but just because we can access a lot of “stuff” online, doesn’t necessarily mean we can always use it for our own purposes.

This is a great opportunity to speak about ownership and permission, “You know it’s not nice to take your friend’s stuffed bear or to take a chocolate bar from the store without paying for it.” It’s not respectful to take other people’s videos, photographs, and other creative materials and use them without permission.

Hot tip: Take some time to learn about Creative Commons licenses. There are some instances where you are allowed to download, remix and use depending on the license they have chosen. When you feel your child is ready to understand these concepts, teach them about creative commons media, how to find them, and which media they can respectfully use without permission.

Respecting Privacy

When it comes to respecting our privacy, we need to be careful that we do not share personal information about—especially our home address, phone number, or bank information.

Your child may speak to other people (adults and kids) online and these people may share personal details like their real names, hometown, or more personal information. Remind your child this is not acceptable behaviour. Talk to them about what information they should keep private online.

Digital Respect is key for children to understand online behavior, responsibility, and connection with others. This skill is increasingly important as our time spent online increases, and more and more interactions and social networking with others take place in the digital world, where privacy and respect seem to be less commonly practiced.

As we teach our children about Digital Respect in real life, it is important that we practice digital respect too. They will learn from how they see us interacting online and learn to be more positive, respectful ambassadors in the digital and real worlds.

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