Preparing our children for kindness online and offline is part of raising kids in the 21st century. It can be tempting to wait until there is an incident to have serious conversations about cyberbullying, cruelty and online drama with your kids. Yet our kids need us to talk early and talk often. As soon as your children start going online, you can start shaping their habits and understanding of how to be their best selves online. Here are some tips to get started.
- Start with a conversation. Share cyberbullying facts and stories about cyberbullying with your child. Reinforce the message that bullying, cruelty, and teasing hurts.
- Make sure that your child understands your expectations for online behavior, including practicing kindness, respect, and ethical behavior.
- Make a family media plan that includes expectations about cyberbullying.
- Don’t lecture. Make sure that Internet “incidents” are an opportunity to communicate, not a platform for endless lectures.
- Use parental controls and monitor in a way that builds trust instead of eroding it.
- Make sure your child knows what to do if they are bullied online – tell them not to respond or retaliate but to save a screenshot and tell a trusted adult.
- Remind your child that their “digital footprint” is public. It can be easy to forget that your posts can be seen by unintended audiences.
- Remind your child to think before they post. This takes practice. Give your kids tools to help them make good choices like breathing five times before posting online, deliberately considering multiple audiences, and asking themselves why they are posting.
- Nurture empathy in your child and recognize when they are being an upstanding digital citizen!