Nurturing Digital Well-being: Empowering Our Children in the Digital Age
Monday, July 17, 2023
In today's digital era, it's more important than ever to equip our children with the knowledge and skills to navigate the online world safely and responsibly. As parents, we have a crucial role in fostering their digital well-being. In this blog post, I will explore key aspects of digital well-being and provide practical tips to empower our children (and help you as the parent/guardian on this crazy journey. Additionally, I have an exciting challenge for you at the end of this post!
Online Privacy and Security:
We begin by addressing the critical topic of online privacy and security. By teaching our children to create strong passwords, use two-factor authentication, and avoid sharing personal information with strangers online, we equip them with the tools to protect themselves in the digital realm. Look back on last week's Instagram posts, or through our private Facebook group, and you'll notice I gave some further, in-depth ideas for this. Don't rely on schools to do this for you, as many are still nowhere near where they should be (in my opinion) on teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship. In an ideal world, every school would be teaching this heavy handedly right now, especially in a world where our kids have no choice than to grow up with tech. Why aren't we doing more to help them, and parents, understand how to navigate safely online?
Digital Footprint and Online Reputation:
Next, we delve into the concept of a digital footprint and online reputation. By helping our children understand the long-term consequences of their online actions, encouraging them to think before they post, and discussing the potential risks of sharing sensitive information, we empower them to shape a positive online presence. One of my favorite things to show my students is what happens when I Google my name. First of all, there's others with my same name, and not all great examples! But, when you do find me, you see that I've been a travel writer, I've published books, I have a blog about my BRCA journey, and you'll see I'm an educator. I've done a lot in my life, and because I've shared so much information online, I'm kind of out there...permanently. I explain to my students that much of that was when I was working for, or doing work for, another entity, which means I can't take it down because I don't own it. That's eye opening for tweens and some teens. We need to be proactive with our kids, and show them by example, instead of hiding the online world from them.
Critical Thinking and Media Literacy:
In the age of information overload, critical thinking and media literacy are vital skills. We guide our children to question the credibility of online information, fact-check before sharing, and seek diverse perspectives. By fostering these skills, we help them become discerning consumers of digital content. I HOPE most schools are at least teaching our students to be critical consumers of information online. Whether it's passive enjoyment or for research, they need to know how to analyze a website for author, date, credible sources, internal/external linking, reverse image searches, etc. So many of our kiddos will believe anything they read online because they don't know how to face check or verify sources. We're sending them off to college unprepared if we aren't at least doing this in elementary through high school.
Cyberbullying Awareness and Prevention:
Cyberbullying is a serious issue that can have a profound impact on children's mental and emotional well-being. We emphasize the importance of educating our children about cyberbullying, fostering open communication, and teaching them how to respond to and report incidents. Together, we create a culture of kindness and empathy online. I think cyberbullying is a parent/guardian's number one concern, next to p*rn. I see post all the time in forums, asking for help in this area, or otherwise, blocking all online access because of the fear that their child will come across one, or the other, or both. Having early conversations about cyberbullying is key. This needs to start in elementary school, as kids are gaining access to phones earlier and earlier. Again, let's help them be prepared with skills that can help them identify and deal with the situation. It's unfair to send them out to battle without a sword!
Time Management and Digital Balance:
Finding a healthy balance between screen time and other activities is essential for our children's overall well-being. We encourage setting limits on device usage, establishing tech-free zones or times, and promoting physical activities, hobbies, and face-to-face social interactions. By prioritizing a well-rounded life, our children can flourish both online and offline. The younger they are, I'd suggest setting access times during the day, as they need help understanding time blocking and balance when it comes to tech use. Have times for "fun" apps, and other times for educational/research/creative apps. I call this active vs. passive time. If we don't help them practice this skill, they won't know how to use it, and ultimately, could find themselves in a world unable to put the phone down. They need guidance and help with all of this, they aren't "native" in knowing how to use it in a healthy and balanced way, and that's why I dislike the term "digital native".
Respectful communication is the cornerstone of positive online interactions. We teach our children about online etiquette, the impact of their words and actions, and the consequences of cyberbullying or hate speech. By fostering a culture of respect and empathy, we contribute to a healthier online environment. We spend so much time teaching our kids manners, and how to act responsibly, and demonstrate our family values when out in the physical world. The same is JUST as important in the online world. Are we modeling the same, or are we showing them that we're keyboard warriors? Are we thinking before we post, or reacting to something? There's so much to help them understand when it comes to communication, even the difference between texting a friend vs. an adult.
Encouraging our children to reflect on their digital habits and behaviors is crucial for their well-being. By helping them understand the potential negative effects of excessive screen time or reliance on social media validation, fostering a healthy self-image, and promoting self-esteem independent of online interactions, we empower them to navigate the digital world with confidence and authenticity. I'm all for helping our kids think about the online world, presenting them with scenarios, working with them on some apps, showing them the examples we'd love for them to follow. They don't always think about consequences, we know that. Their frontal lobes are still developing. We can't get mad at them for mistakes, as we learn from mistakes...they are valuable, if dealt with in a constructive way.
Introducing the 4-Day Digital Well-being Challenge:
To put these principles into action, we invite you to take part in our 4-Day Digital Well-being Challenge! Starting on July 24th, I will provide you with daily prompts and activities that align with the tips discussed regarding digital wellness for tweens and teens. This challenge aims to create meaningful conversations with your child, develop healthy digital habits, and strengthen your bond while fostering digital well-being.
On day 5, I'll host a live webinar, where you will learn about my B.A.L.A.N.C.E. technique for helping parents/guardians introduce the concept of digital wellness to their tweens and teens.
As parents, we play a pivotal role in shaping our children's digital well-being. By implementing the tips shared in this blog post and embracing the 4-Day Digital Well-being Challenge, we can empower our children to navigate the online world safely, responsibly, and with confidence. Let's embark on this journey together and create a generation of digitally resilient individuals.
Are you ready for the challenge? Stay tuned for the upcoming posts and get ready to nurture digital well-being in your family!
Remember, their digital well-being starts with us!