Today's generation, the GenZ, is truly a digital native in the sense that they haven't known a world without technology.
Growing up, they've seen a world with people using devices and swiping through apps, and many must have been watching videos on their parents' phones or tablets as toddlers. One might argue that digital natives are always looking at their phones and are immersed in the technology of one or the other kind, but one can't deny that digital natives are some of the most social people on Earth. For them, all it takes is will and intent, and they can interact with anyone online. They don't require physical conversation to be social, and that's not going to change anytime soon.
However, staying social online has its own responsibilities and threats around the corner. It is easier to get carried away at the comfort of a device and end up reflecting, reacting and misbehaving in an online environment. Since technology is at our hands with scalable use over time, it's prime that we teach digital natives to be socially responsible in the digital world. Parents and educators must help digital natives develop online social skills to participate in online social life ethically and respectfully.
A few guidelines for parents and educators to identify and set the course for digital natives would be:
- Behaving lawfully: Cybercrimes are equally damaging for both the victim and accused, and it is easy for teens to get into the trap. It is easy to sit behind the screen and feel like you can get away with anything. To ensure that kids aren't exposed to cyberbullying on either end, parents and educators must make kids understand the rights and wrongs of the online world.
- Privacy: understand that it is of utmost importance that kids are well aware of their limitations regarding seeking and sharing information and know where to draw the lines. Protecting one's privacy and that of others plays a huge role in staying safe and ethical in the online world.
- Digital Footprint: Whatever we do online leave a footprint that can affect others or ourselves immensely. Students must know their online actions affect them and other people they know, alongside their wider online community.
Here are the key guidelines that you must teach digital natives to be socially responsible:
Be Respectful and expect the same
Respect for oneself and others is essential in all relationships, and it's no different in an online environment. Encouraging children to treat online friends with as much respect as they would've given to real-life friends is a great way to instill them with traits of a responsible digital native. Young people tend to sort things out for themselves, but you must assure them that they must inform their educator, parent, or trusted adult if they see someone being bullied or attacked online. Ensure kids trust you and feel confident in confiding in you for things they don't feel sure about. It might help your child know that things are easier to sort out when they can seek help. Suppose your child gets targeted for any online activity like bullying comments, sharing embarrassing pictures, nasty information. In that case, they must inform the adult in charge and block or unfriend people who do not treat them with respect. Appropriate action must be taken against people who indulge in cybercrimes when children inform you of any such thing happening.
Build a Positive Reputation
Everything that goes online adds to one's online reputation. Your child must understand the consequences of sharing too much and uploading pictures and videos that may harm their reputation in the long run. One way to make them know this is by telling them that they may be comfortable sharing specific pictures or content for now, but it might stand out in a different light or make them feel negative in the future. Parents and educators must educate children about sharing the right content online and building a positive online reputation. Tell them once the content is online, it's tough to get rid of it and can become part of their permanent online reputation.
Educate Children about Privacy and Set Limitations to Protect Privacy
Several ways in which your child can protect their privacy are:
- Sharing only the necessary information. For instance, sharing your mobile number, city of birth, address, or so on every platform or online form is not a must. Limit the information that goes out online.
- Keep a check on the privacy settings of your child's online social media profiles. Ensure it's not publicly available.
- Educate children about passwords and concerns relating to them. Teach them to create secure passwords and keep them private.
- The most important part is teaching children not to share their whereabouts with anyone they meet online. Another aspect of this is checking the location settings and services on smartphones, tablets and apps. Children's safety is highly at risk if anyone can access their location. Turn off the location services your child doesn't need. Also, educate them to beware of the people they meet, where they meet and always keep you in the loop.
Tone and Expression
It's easy to be misunderstood and read the real emotion in written communication. Teach children to watch out how and what they speak in the online environment. Educate them to 'stop, think, review' before sending a message or posting an online comment. Using emojis, hashtags, gifs, and images can help.
Apart from the guidelines above, it's always a good idea to talk to your children about their online lives and know their friends, people they meet, and what is a part of their digital lives. Another important thing is educating children about cyber security and its associated elements like cybercrimes, cyberbullying, digital drama, etc.
An informed individual reduces the probability of landing up in an unfavorable situation. So, ensure that your child is well informed about the online world. to learn more, you can check out the list of resources mentioned below.