Raising Responsible Digital Citizens

parenting compI am always on the lookout for great parenting books, websites and information. This week, I listened to a webinar with Rosalind Wiseman, who wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World. Rosalind shared how to set rules and expectations for new technology as well as how to respond when a child has a problem.

She began the webinar by reminding parents that they do not need to be tech experts to teach their kids how to use technology responsibly. Yes, there is always a new app or device but the same values we teach our kids in the real world still apply online. A screen does not erase the expectations for thoughtful and respectful communication. She shared how she set up a family contract with her 12 year old when he received his first phone.

Later, she delved into the inherent challenges with online communications. Without context or inflection, it is hard to tell when a post is playful and when it is hurtful, particularly with teasing. This is something we struggle with at our house. It is easy to cross the line with teasing in the real world; it is even easier with a comment posted on Facebook or Twitter. She outlines 3 types of teasing: good, ignorant and malicious.  She defines each one and walks parents through how to talk with your kid about teasing.

teasing stages

As she points out, some conflict is unavoidable. Kids online are going to experience conflict just like in real world. When conflict arises online, kids are often afraid to tell an adult because they do not want to snitch or they are afraid they will lose their device.


Instead of banning technology, Rosalind urges parents to focus on teaching kids social competence. Kids need to understand the difference between snitching and reporting. Everyone needs help some times. Learning when to ask for help and how to deal with conflict are the keys to social competence. She urged parents to stay engaged and work behind the scenes coaching their kids on how to make good decisions.
She ended her discussion with 3 thoughts for parents – –

Dignity is not negotiable.

Connection makes life meaningful.

You matter in a child’s life.

If you get a chance, here is the link to her talk Raising Your Digital Natives Responsibly.

Verizon, who sponsored this webinar, is holding another one on June 24 –Digital Literacy, Digital Citizenship, Digital Discipline. Dr. David Walsh and Erin Walsh will offer practical information for helping children maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of media and new technologies. Beside these parenting webinars, Verizon also has some other great resources for parents on their Online Safety page.