3 Ways to Mentor Responsible Digital Kids

by Jan 26, 2017Screen Time

When you think about kids and technology, what is the first feeling that comes to mind?

If your primary emotions are fear, overwhelm, or anxiety, you are not alone. However, being afraid doesn’t help our kids make good decisions around technology. When parents step up to mentor kids, kids can learn to deliberately use technology in responsible and ethical ways. Kids who learn this have a bright and optimistic future!

digital kids

I’d like to share some simple strategies on how we can mentor responsible digital kids. In other words, I’d like to give you some ideas on how to teach kids digital citizenship.

What is digital citizenship?

You can find myriad definitions on the internet, but I like to keep the heart of the definition simple:

Digital citizenship (#DigCit) includes using technology deliberately in ways that avoid and reject the bad and especially leverage the good. It also involves using digital tools ethically and productively.

I think it’s safe to say that most parents spend too much energy on helping our kids with the first half of that definition–avoiding or rejecting the bad. Either that, or we just try to shut out the reality of our digital world. Neither approach will help us or our kids! We can’t effectively parent or mentor from a place of fear or denial.

Thankfully, the concept of digital citizenship allows space for us to recognize the risks of digital living (no denial from me!) without letting those things dominate. DigCit done right focuses on the DO’s just as much, or more, than the DON’Ts.

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Three simple ways to raise responsible digital kids

I have three simple invitations that can help you raise responsible digital kids.

1. Enlighten yourself about the pressures kids face with technology

Watch this amazing 6 minute video by Devorah Heitner, PhD. She’s a mom who has studied children ages 10-12 to find out how technology is impacting their lives and relationships. Watch as Devorah reveals the non-existent apps that kids want to invent to help them deal with their tech problems. As you listen, you’ll become more sensitive to the challenges your own kids face and their need for your loving attention and mentorship around technology.

2. Actively brainstorm with your kids

Do this fun brainstorming activity with children on the positive and negative uses of tech.

  1. Give each child a pack of sticky notes and a pen or pencil. (Any child in your family old enough to write or even draw pictures can be invited to participate.)
  2. Explain that they will get 5 minutes to write examples of both negative and positive uses of technology. This is a no-talking time; each person focuses on writing as many ideas as they can.
  3. Set a timer and ask the kids to write any positives they can think of that come from using technology (phones, tablets, computers, internet). For example, positives might include Skyping grandma and grandpa, enjoying a movie together as a family on Netflix, or being able to text mom when you’re in a bad situation.)
  4. Re-set the timer and ask the kids to write any negatives they can think of that come from using technology (phones, tablets, computers, internet). For example, negatives might include being bullied online or seeing pornography.
  5. Invite each person to read their ideas out loud as they stick their notes up on a blank wall, a window, a white board, etc. Do all the positives first, and then have everyone read their negatives. Encourage them to read their ideas even if they are repeating what others have said; the patterns are interesting, as are the unique ideas!

3. Follow-up, regularly!

Practice inviting your kids to share their thoughts and feelings whenever you talk about technology. Encourage them (and yourself) to deliberately choose the positive in their digital world and reject the negative.

Discuss ways you can do this as a family. Consider implementing a #techtalktuesday to make sure you hold regular discussions about technology, both the good and the not-so-good.

Remember, the best learning and relationship-building comes when we use our energy to engage each other across generations, to deliberately choose what we want to DO and BECOME.

digital kids

I hope these three invitations to:

  • enlighten yourself about #DigCit issues,
  • brainstorm with your kids about the positives and negatives of tech, and
  • regularly mentor your children to deliberately make good tech choices

will help you raise responsible digital kids! This is their world that they are growing up in and it’s their time of promise. They have a bright future ahead as we mentor them to intentionally reject the bad and deliberately choose the good available from their digital world.

Michelle Linford
Michelle Linford is the Executive Director of EPIK Deliberate Digital. EPIK's mission is to facilitate a collaborative community culture that involves youth in positive, deliberate digital citizenship. EPIK works at both the state and national level with strategic partners from a variety of spheres. In 2015, EPIK played an important role in helping Utah be the first state to pass digital citizenship legislation.

Michelle has a BS in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Change. Michelle and her husband, Matt, are the grateful parents of three amazing teenagers. Get in touch at @DigCitUtah and @epikalliance.

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