Raising your son to be a safe, responsible and respectful digital citizen
Today’s media and technology-saturated world provides opportunities for boys to create, communicate and connect in ways never before thought possible.
And while the digital world allows our sons access to incredible resources and learning opportunities, raising a child in the digital age can present parents with many challenges, including managing screen time, finding age-appropriate content, and preventing cyberbullying.
As an e-learning coach and librarian, I’m always on the lookout for resources that help parents and teachers manage the impacts of these challenges, and help us raise kids that are safe, responsible and respectful digital citizens.
Common Sense Media is one of my go-to resources. The free site’s mission is to empower parents and teachers to harness the positive power of media and technology so our kids can thrive in the digital world.
These 5 top tips to help you and your son make smart media choices come from this article published on Edutopia, which was compiled by Common Sense Media editors.
- Use media together
Whenever you can, watch, play, and listen with your kids, and then talk about the content. When you can’t be there, ask them about the media they’ve used.
Help kids question and analyse media messages and share your own values. Let them know how you feel about solving problems with violence, stereotyping others, selling products using sex or cartoon characters, or advertising to kids in schools or movie theatres.
Help kids connect what they learn in the media to real-life events and other activities – such as playing sports and creating art – in order to broaden their understanding of the world.
- Explain that nothing is really private online
It’s crucial for kids to guard their own online privacy by not posting and sharing things they don’t want to become public, so make sure your son knows to:
- ask permission before he goes online
- keep passwords private
- keep personal details – name, address, phone number, how much money his parents make – to himself.
- think before he posts – is this really something he wants to share with the world?
- only communicate with people he knows and never chat with or send photos to strangers.
- Help your son understand the difference between funny and cruel
Kids’ online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel – both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your son to call or speak face-to-face with their friend to clear it up.
- Grab the headlines, and turn them into teachable moments
If you see teen drinking on a TV show or pictures on the internet of celebs acting out or breaking the law, check in with your son.
For younger kids, see how much they understand. Our kids get a lot of confusing information from their peers, so set the facts straight.
For preteens, turn celebrity misbehaviour into teachable moments by letting them know what you think about the behaviour.
For teens, ask questions. For example, if a celebrity they like is in trouble with alcohol, ask whether their peers are using alcohol or whether they have any anxieties or questions about drinking. Take time to share your opinions – and expectations – about the issues.
- Don’t assume your son automatically knows what’s right and wrong
The digital world operates with different rules, which means parents need to establish rules about use of technology from the very start. Be explicit about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. Give strict screen-time boundaries. And make sure there are real consequences for breaking the rules.
When your son repeats something he’s heard, ask him to cite his material, clearly indicating where he found that statistic, insight, map etc.
Whether you’re a tech-savvy parent or a total technophobe, these tips offer a dose of ‘common sense’ that will help you guide your son through the digital minefield.
Check out the Common Sense Media site for more FAQs, articles, tip sheets and videos that address common parent concerns.
Pauline Anthony is an eLearning coordinator, teacher and librarian at Brighton Grammar – an all-boys school in Melbourne. This article is about Parenting
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