…Approximately 95% of US teens ages 12-17 are online*.
…75% of children in the US under the age of 8 have access to a ‘smart’ mobile device (phone, tablet, etc). This is up from 52% in 2011**.
…59% of kids join social networks before age 10***.
*From a September 2012 survey by the Pew Research Project.
**According to a national research study done by Common Sense Media in late 2013.
***A recent study from a UK based safety advisory site, Knowthenet.
If you’re thinking ‘uh oh’ or ‘that’s a recipe for all sorts of scary things’, or even ‘we’ve come a little ways since June Cleaver’ – you are right. If you’re the ‘ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away-or-fix-itself’ type, think again. Plainly, the numbers are staggering. Our kids are on stage online in front of millions- all the time. Every day. Multiple times daily. How do they learn the right way to act?
One of the first things we teach our kids when they are learning to talk (besides mama and dada) is to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. As parents, we are attentive to teaching manners as soon as our kids can form words. Why? Because our children are interacting with other human beings, and we want them to be polite and respectful. It’s no different that the manners that should be there when interacting online, but there is a difference in that parents aren’t always physically present to supervise online conversation. Think about it this way. We all had that friend in the neighborhood ‘back in the day’ who got to stay home alone all day during the summer break at age 10 while her parents worked. I guarantee you I spent as much time as I could over at that friend’s house! Why? Because popsicles were a whole lot tastier for lunch than soup or vegetables or a sandwich. And because there weren’t any parents to control what we watched on HBO or VHS (or Beta – lol). Now imagine if we had internet on that fine machine in the den called a Commodore Vic 20. With the maturity in judgment we exhibited through our lunch choices and TV watching, I’m pretty sure access to the internet could have been disastrous. We certainly were not the malicious types, but we may have posted something stupid to laugh about- not knowing or understanding any potential errors in judgment or long term consequences.
So, is Netiquette important? About as important as closing the trap door on a submarine. Where do our kids learn Netiquette and when? That’s where we come in, my friends. We are the first generation of parents who are raising children who don’t know anything different than the technology they are growing up with, which opens a BIG door to a vast, rogue public world online. So, as the first generation of electronic parents, we have a much bigger lesson to teach early on than ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
You can keep a computer in a common area so that you can watch over your littles, or you can ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ them- but neither of these common sense protective parenting measures help you teach your kids a very basic rule of thumb. Teach your kids this simple acronym: STOP before you post…because your posts will be with you like a tattoo. There is no delete button in the cloud that we can be sure of, even if it appears that you can delete something from a site.
Slow down. Take a breath. Are you angry? Mad at someone? Poking fun? If so, don’t tap ‘post’.
Take a look at what you just typed. OK for grandma to read it? Your favorite teacher or your coach? If not, don’t tap ‘post’.
Opt out if it’s illegal, hurtful, angry, sexual or threatening.
Press ‘cancel’ if in doubt. Post anything you want in your mind, but unless it puts you in a good light- don’t post it online!
If we can program our kids to stop, think and give consideration before they post out of haste, anger, or just to be cool, we can prevent a lot of cyber bullying pain and raise kids to make good, deliberate choices about branding themselves online.