Raising a Responsible Digital Citizen
February 12, 2020
In today’s climate of ever-changing and hyperconnected technology, it is increasingly important to teach your children how to be responsible digital citizens. There is an abundance of platforms and apps for people (including children) to interact online, and with that comes the risk of online dangers for things like child predators, identity theft and cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying takes place digitally and can occur anywhere online where people interact. This might include the sharing of negative, personally harmful, or mean content about someone else that leads to embarrassment or humiliation. While we agree that any bullying is inappropriate, cyberbullying is especially damaging for several reasons:
- The internet runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, which means that those being bullied may struggle to find reprieve.
- We’ve all heard it said that once something gets published online, it never truly goes away. While most platforms now have the option to report and remove cyberbullying content, if the content is not removed, it could lead to a long-term negative online reputation.
- Cyberbullying can go unnoticed by adults.
Being a responsible digital citizen means using technology safely, knowledgeably and appropriately and, therefore, helps us avoid these online dangers. But what if your children know more about technology than you do? How are you supposed to monitor their online activity if 95% of it is done on their mobile devices?
We’re here to help. Whether your children know more about technology than you or not, there are some things you can do and tools you can utilize to monitor their online activity while also teaching them to be responsible digital citizens.
10 tips for raising a responsible digital citizen
First, let’s talk about good internet habits you can employ yourself and teach your kids.
Be sure your children know that their passwords are only to be shared with you. Sharing passwords with friends or others online increase your child’s risk of online dangers. A child predator or identity thief may be able to learn personally identifiable information about your child, putting them at great risk. A cyberbully may be able to use your child’s account to create negative, embarrassing or humiliating content.
Personal identification privacy
Teach children to never, under any circumstances, share personally identifiable information with anyone online. This might include things like full name, email address, home address, social security number, or things like a bank account, passport or driver’s license number.
Online friends vs. real-life friends
This is a tough lesson to learn sometimes, even for adults. The average person spends two hours and 33 minutes per day on social media and there are currently 3.196 billion people actively using social networks. While spending so much time online engaging with others, it is easy for the lines to become blurred between online friends/acquaintances and relationships with people you know and engage with in real life. Be sure that your children understand the difference between real friends and people they engage with online.
As a general rule, we recommend ensuring that location settings are turned off on all devices before internet use. With teenagers who are out and about, it may be necessary to bend this rule a bit if you wish to track their location. However, for general internet use, the location should not be shared whether through location settings or the child verbally sharing where they are located.
THINK before you post
The best way to teach this habit to children is through the acronym, THINK. Encourage them to THINK before posting or responding.
T – Is what I’m about to post true?
H – Is what I’m about to post helpful?
I – Is what I’m about to post inspiring?
N – Is what I’m about to post necessary?
K – Is what I’m about to post kind?
Cyberbullying guilt by association
In being a responsible citizen and a responsible digital citizen, it is necessary that your children understand the importance of standing up for those who are being bullied, or in this case, cyberbullied. Be sure that your children understand that associating with cyberbullies or ignoring a situation where someone is being cyberbullied is no better than being the cyberbully. Equip your children with the steps necessary to report or communicate when cyberbullying is taking place.
Tips for monitoring your child’s internet use
Online predators and cyberbullies are lurking behind their screens waiting for their next victim, and it is your responsibility as a parent to be a watchful eye for your child. Even the best-behaved children need to be monitored for their own safety. We recommend being open with your children that you will be monitoring their internet activity. Here are some tips for monitoring your child’s internet use:
Create internet rules
We like the Rules ‘N Tools Youth Pledge and recommend using it as a supplement to your own family-specific internet rules. Your internet rules may include things like:
- Internet usage time limits – How long can your child use the internet at a time?
- Approved internet usage times – Are there times of the day that are off-limits for internet use?
- Approved internet usage devices – Just because your kids may have internet-friendly devices does not mean you have to permit internet usage on all of those devices.
The most important part of any rule-setting is the commitment to deliver consequences if the rules are not followed.
Check device browsing history after each use
Be sure the browsing history on your child’s device is not set to automatically delete after each use. This will allow you to look at the sites they have visited even if you do not have any other monitoring tools. If you see that they have accessed an inappropriate site, you can address the issue immediately.
Use kid-friendly search engines
Kid-friendly search engines have been created to help you keep your kids safe online by only permitting certain types of content to show up in search results. A popular one created by Google is Kidtopia, but there are lots of other options as well, like Kids Search, Teach The Children Well, Kiddle, Duck Duck Go, GoGooligans, KidRex and more.
Use other monitoring tools
The easiest and most efficient way to monitor your children’s internet usage and activity is by using the monitoring tools available on the market today. Some of these tools are available at no cost, while others require a paid subscription or per-device fee. We’ve researched a variety of monitoring tools to help you get off to a solid start protecting your children from online dangers like cyberbullying.
Tools for monitoring your kids online
Most of the tools available for monitoring your kids online are compatible with nearly any device that uses Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS. For many parents, online monitoring can feel like an uncomfortable invasion of their child’s privacy. It is important to remember that these tools and your efforts in monitoring are to protect your child from online dangers. By utilizing these tools, you will make a choice in what you monitor and what you do not.
Device-specific parental controls
Depending on the internet-capable device being used, there are device-specific parental controls that can be set up. Here are some parental controls for Apple devices. Others can be found by Google searching the device you need to set parental controls on. These controls may include things like content/website restrictions, app purchase restrictions, privacy settings changes and more.
Website specific parental controls
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – While Facebook does not have a specific solution for parental controls, it does allow you the flexibility of adjusting the General Account Settings on your child’s Facebook profile. You will need to be logged in to the child’s account to access these settings. The same options apply to sites like Instagram and Twitter. We recommend modifying privacy settings for both posting and viewing posts to Friends Only. We also recommend disabling your child to be tagged in other posts. There are several other choices you can make, like whether or not you will require two-factor authentication (two passwords) and things related to facial recognition and more.
YouTube – YouTube’s version of parental controls is called Safety Mode. Safety mode hides videos that may contain inappropriate content. It also enables Google SafeSearch, which is a filter created to block pornography and other inappropriate content. You can even lock the account in Safety mode so that it cannot be turned off by anyone but you.
Tools for parents
The internet is a wealth of resources for information, including information on how to teach yourself and your children how to be responsible digital citizens by avoiding things like cyberbullying. We found a few websites you can start with:
If you are interested in additional methods of online monitoring, there are a large variety of apps and subscriptions you can purchase (some offer free versions) to assist with your monitoring. These tools typically offer some sort of parent portal where you can add your children’s devices and create the settings to do the monitoring for you. We found the ones listed below to be highly rated.
- Net Nanny
- Norton Family Premier
- Kaspersky Safe Kids
Do you consider yourself a responsible digital citizen? Are you raising your children to be responsible digital citizens? As technology has become more and more intertwined with our everyday lives, it has become even more important to ensure the safety of our children from online threats like cyberbullying. There are many tools and resources available for parents to assist in this effort because, after all, responsible digital citizens are created at home.