I Don’t Want My Kids to Be Jerks Online or Anywhere!
By Jennifer Johnson
! is the second article in a two-part series.
When I had my first child I swore he would never eat processed food. He’d be on a schedule. He would read for fun. And he would never watch TV.
But reality set in. And more kids came. The fastest dinner to make was chicken dinos. Sometimes I would skip their naps so I could put them to bed a little earlier. TV was a regular morning occurrence so I could get just a few more minutes of sleep. And the kids soon turned to gaming devices and computers for entertainment. Now I have a teenager. His friends all communicate with their iPods or smartphones. His school uses apps to remind about homework and social activities. He doesn’t turn in papers but turns in work through document sharing online. He makes better PowerPoint presentations than I ever could.
Technology has always been around, but it has taken off at lightning speed during my adulthood. Employers use the internet to run their businesses. Households use it to pay bills. Families use it to stay connected. Adults and children use it to for entertainment. Technology is used at every age and every stage of life. It’s becoming mandatory for life and for socialization.
Common Sense Media reports that children between 8 and 12 years old spend an average of six hours per day using media entertainment. Teens ages 13 to 18 spend an average of nine hours a day using it (Common Sense Media, 2015). This does not include homework or school usage. Also notable, but not mentioned in the report, are the infants and toddlers that are now using tablets for entertainment or educational purposes.
This is why it is imperative that our children to learn to be great digital citizens!
What can you do?
Since children are spending the majority of their time using technology, they need to know how to use it wisely!
Teach your kids to use technology for a purpose. Show them ways you connect positively with people online. Take them to websites that have opportunities for people to use technology for good, like change.org or justserve.org.
Look for opportunities to create positive experiences for them AND others online. Read a news story together about someone who uplifted others on social media and then discuss ways you can compliment, build up, defend and include others through texting, social media and other online venues.
Look for opportunities to be creative. Explore apps and websites where either of you can learn to code, improve artistic skills, create videos, etc.
Discuss and set limits with your kids. Don’t just give them the rules. Include your kids in helping to create these limits and then make sure YOU are setting an example and keeping the rules too.
Discuss strategies for how to avoid or redirect inappropriate content. All of our kids will be exposed to violent or hyper-sexualized media before they are “ready” for it. Take the time to create a plan for what they can do when it does happen.
Look for opportunities to change the world! One of the best things about smartphones and social media is the ability to connect with thousands and even millions of people. For the first time in history, kids (and adults) can impact others in super simple ways. Show your kids examples of kids using technology for good and plan a small (or big) project together. Teach your child that her voice matters!
Technology is full of amazing opportunities and it is time to teach our kids to seize upon them! We can do this!
Need help with digital citizenship? Look for our children’s book this coming fall! You can also check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child for help on how to build an emotionally strong and socially confident child, or download our free lesson Using Technology for Good to teach your children how to use the internet in a positive way.
Or Check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age–A simple, super-helpful guide that gives YOU the words to talk about tough, timely topics of today (like racism, integrity, agency, healthy sexuality, LGBTQI issues, social media, and more).
Jennifer Johnson is an intern for Educate and Empower Kids and is working towards a degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University – Idaho. She is active in her community and has volunteered in her local school district as a noon duty aide, school site safety council representative, and PTO President. Jennifer was born and raised in Southern California where she currently lives with her husband and three sons.
Landmark Report: U.S. Teens Use an Average of Nine Hours of Media Per Day, Tweens Use Six Hours | Common Sense Media. (2015). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/news/press-releases/landmark-report-us-teens-use-an-average-of-nine-hours-of-media-per-day
Internet Society. (n.d.). Retrieved August 26, 2017, from http://www.internetsociety.org/your-digital-footprint