Teach Your Kids About Online Ripples: Our Actions Always Matter
By Dina Alexander, MS
I’ve spent much of my time warning parents about the dangers our kids are facing online. At times I have felt fear, frustration, and even hopelessness as I have watched our culture become more disconnected, lonely, and increasingly cold-hearted.
However, I have come to realize that feeling fear and frustration do not create change—or at least not the kind of change I would like to see. We can move beyond just stemming the tide of digital dangers and warning each other of rough waters ahead. The time has come to turn the tide and create real digital change in our homes and communities through a more positive approach.
The best way to do this is to empower our kids to see their influence and potential to impact the world through technology. As we have evolved into a world full of technology, every human is now affected by its power and influence, especially our children!
All of our actions online and in “real life” create ripples, or small waves of change around us. Each time we text, send an email, post on social media, interact with others on a game, or create a new piece of technology, we create ripples.
Do your kids understand this first, great law of digital technology?
We matter. Our kids matter. And everything we post, text, or email matters. Our ripples affect those around us for better or for worse.
The following discussions will help your kids understand that their online and “real life” actions always matter:
Potentials of Technology
What are some things you can do with a smartphone, tablet, or computer?
What can you learn, teach others, and create?
What are more ways we can help and uplift others to create positive ripples with technology?
How can small actions online change friendships and family relationships?
How could you change the world using technology?
Discuss Healthy Boundaries
Are you the same person online that you are in “real life?”
What is a healthy amount of time to spend in front of a screen each day?
If you have a phone, what are some things you use it for?
How much texting or posting on social media in one day is too much?
What is “oversharing?”
Should we have device-free time? For example, do you put away phones and tablets at dinner time?
For kids AND parents to consider:
How are our “real lives” and “online lives” merging into one “life”? Is your “real life” and “online life” merged into one identity?
When should a child be able to own a smartphone or use social media?
What is appropriate behavior with devices in our home, at school, and at work?
What is appropriate use and behavior on social media?
What behavior is not okay?
How can we protect ourselves and our personal information from predators?
How else do we stay safe online?
The technology around us has so much potential, and we can teach our kids to be better, learn more, reach out to loved ones, and be more involved in our communities with it. But first they must understand that our ripples affect those around us for better or for worse. We can ignore situations or actively participate. We can choose to uplift or tear down. We can choose to post useless or useful information. We can choose kindness in the face of an argument or we can choose to escalate.
Need help with these discussions? For a great story, including discussions and activities, for kids ages 6-11, check out Noah’s New Phone: A Story about Using Technology for Good. For older kids, try our free, downloadable lesson on Using Technology for Good available on our Lessons Page.
Dina Alexander is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She is an amazing mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in Texas.