How To Teach Your Kids To Be Responsible Digital Citizens
Guiding Digital Natives through internet safety and positive behavior online.
By Leah Ringelstein, Director of Education of Zigazoo
The generation that was first introduced to social media are now becoming parents -- they figured it out on their own, so how do they teach their children? Gen-Alphas are growing up to be Digital Natives; learning to be good Digital Citizens as well will better serve them in their future personal and professional relationships.
Because Gen-Alpha are naturally independent online scrollers, there are more internet safety risks to be aware of compared to older children. 58 percent of moms with children under 18 years old wish there were more security and privacy options built into kids’ devices.
The digital world offers kids the wonderful opportunity of meeting and interacting with peers from different walks of life. Though children are so adept at navigating gaming consoles and apps these days, it’s still imperative to teach them how to conduct themselves in a positive way when online. Parents and teachers play an important role in helping kids develop technical and critical thinking skills to help them tap into the best of what technology has to offer.
Setting a Safe Playground In The Digital World
Guiding children in the virtual world -- particularly in direct messaging on social platforms -- allows them to create content they’ll feel good about sharing with their peers and demonstrate their best selves.
A study from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education (prepared by Shugoll Research) shows younger kids are accessing the internet in large numbers, either by cell phone or a tablet. The study showed that "[a]bout three in 10 students" have used the internet in ways their parents wouldn’t approve and 21 percent of children have visited sites where they can chat with strangers.
Setting the tone for online positivity gives children the skills to practice constructive feedback that avoids tearing each other down, even from behind an online persona. As kids become more tech-savvy than their parents, particularly in social media, it's important for older generations to become familiar with tools and parental controls to help build good online habits. That way, they are still a part of their kids’ decision making online.
Teaching our children about the risks they may face and how to avoid them is one of the most important steps we must take to ensure their safety, both online and offline. Just like when we take our kids to the playground to play and socialize, where we assure and support them from the sidelines, we can introduce them to social media while being present to help them learn how to play safely.
Building Healthy Screen Time Habits
During the earlier days of social media, Millennials spent much less screen time on platforms like MySpace and Facebook than their Gen Z and Gen-Alpha children spend on Instagram, TikTok, and other social platforms. There was little to no conversation about how to properly manage healthy screen time and parents struggled to set those boundaries for younger generations, making Millennial parents more tolerant of extended screen use.
According to statistics, the average Gen Z-er spends more than eight hours per day online. While screens are part of today’s culture and even education, parents are recognizing the importance of keeping a closer eye on what their children are consuming on these devices than their parents did for them.
Screen time can be educational and support a child’s social development, as well as inspire them to do more activities offscreen with their friends when there’s a healthy balance. Parents trust platforms like Zigazoo because they know it’s designed for kids and moderated by real people, with an educational philosophy around project-based learning.
Much like taking them out for ice cream, healthy social media can be a treat enjoyed in moderation.
Identify Misinformation vs. Genuine Content
The main issue with misinformation is that it's misleading to kids and it’s designed to prey on their vulnerability. The best protection children can receive from misinformation is developing investigative and critical thinking skills at an early age.
When kids master the art of investigation earlier on, they can apply those skills on and off a computer screen, always seeking truth and health through the noise. Today’s parents should encourage their kids to confidently ask themselves, “How do I know if this is true,” “How do I know where it came from,” and finally, “Is this kind?” Additionally, parents should take the time to practice talking with their kids about their online experiences from an early age so they already have an open and honest dialogue established when tough or confusing matters come up.
Children can easily recognize commercials and advertisements and know they’re being targeted to either participate in an action or purchase a product. Knowing how to separate the difference between genuine content from bogus, coercive, inappropriate, or heavily marketed websites will not only prevent kids from engaging with misinformation, but will let them navigate and shape a future that is heavily positive and productive.
If we give our kids the clues, they’ll be able to get to the bottom of the truth online with the same satisfaction of solving a mystery.
Leah Ringelstein is the Director of Education at Zigazoo, a top-five kids app on Apple’s App Store and the world’s largest social network and NFT education platform for kids. On Zigazoo, kids make creative video responses to fun challenges made by the world’s biggest children’s media brands and share them with friends in a safe environment. For more information, please visit www.zigazoo.com.
Top image © Studio Romantic / Adobe Stock