The concept of digital citizenship, especially as relates to kids and technology, may sound foreign to those who didn't grow up with computers, smartphones and tablet PCs in-hand. But it's also one that every grandparent, parent and child should grasp, as the idea advocates teaching children safe and respectful online behavior, as well as responsible technology use. Happily, the process of preparing kids to greet the challenges and opportunities that high-tech solutions present isn't difficult once you understand the principle's core tenets.
Admittedly, preparing kids for life in a connected world may seem like a daunting task, and one that should be shared amongst parents, educators and policymakers alike. Perhaps so, but it's also important to remember: Raising responsible Internet users is a process that begins at home. The good news for grandparents and parents being that it's easy to get kids started on the right path by teaching the following digital citizenship tips:
Treat Others With Respect - Online interactions may differ from those in real-life in many ways, but not the most fundamental: All should adhere to the golden rule. Internet users should treat others the same way that they'd ask others treat them - e.g. with dignity and respect. Before posting, commenting or uploading multimedia, it's essential that kids and adults consider how their thoughts and actions will affect others. Be polite, respectful and considerate, and prior to hitting "Post" or "Send," always put yourself in potential readers' or viewers' shoes.
Always Think Twice - Anything shared on the Internet, privately or otherwise, can inadvertently become public - and lives on forever online. Actions cannot be taken back: Before posting, sharing or sending messages, consider if it's something you'd be comfortable with your grandmother, employer or teachers seeing. The second content enters the public eye you lose control of it, and the way in which it may be perceived. Be smart about what you share: From goofy photos to comments inadvertently made in anger, unwise choices can come back to haunt you.
Be Original - With information readily available online in record amounts, kids are often tempted to borrow liberally from third-party sources. But it's important to consider: Not everything posted on the Internet is accurate or true, and plagiarism is unacceptable in any form. If children are interested in referencing other parties, teach them to be healthy skeptics first, and always cite original authors and publications. It's important to respect others' creativity, thoughts and research, and not attempt to pass off their work as your own.
Stay Positive - Negativity can be catching online, but seldom does the world a service, or looks flattering to those who engage in it. Never forget - the image you project on the Internet will influence how others perceive you, and be reflected in the tone and shape of all subsequent interactions. So stay positive, be supportive of others, and carry yourself with dignity and professionalism... how you comport yourself and interact with others will define your experiences and takeaways in cyberspace. Likewise, if you don't have something nice to say, recall - it's best left unsaid.
Never Stop Learning - With dozens of new apps, online services, gadgets and technology introduced each week, it's crucial that grandparents, parents and children stay abreast of new developments. Researching and going hands-on with these innovations allows for more informed decision-making, debate and discussion. Make a point of actively engaging children in dialogue about their online and high-tech experiences as well - you may be surprised what you learn. Creating a positive household environment in which everyone feels free to come forward and discuss questions and concerns is a cornerstone of keeping kids safe online, and associated digital citizenship efforts. When it comes to kids and technology, rememebr: You can never be too informed.