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You may have heard the term ‘digital native’ before. A digital native is basically someone who was born well after the year 2000, who does not know of a world without technology such as i-pads, i-pods, google and so on. These kids speak another language to those of us who are parents, who can remember when google first came into existence!

The advent of technology has completely changed the way we live. It helps explain why children speak a different language to their parents. Parents need to learn how to understand this new technological language, and this can be easier said than done.

The key then for parents is not only to understand technology in itself, but to understand the effect it has on their children. More to the point, the role of a parent since about 2010 is to help their children navigate around technology so that they are safe online, and leave a positive “digital footprint”.


What is a Digital Footprint?

digital footprintWe all know that with the internet and its wonders such as google and social media, there is no such thing as “privacy” online. What you do online is public knowledge and cannot be deleted or taken back.

In normal life, often people say things they later regret. In the olden days you could just go back to the person you said something bad to and apologize to them. The incident could then hopefully be forgiven and both parties could move on.

These days if you say something bad to someone in a text message or on Facebook (or any other social media site), it’s there to stay. This is a scary thought and something that as a parent you’ll need to help your children to understand. Children in particular can be nasty, and also tend to be impulsive and say things they may not mean. This can lead to all sorts of interesting challenges!


5 Top Tips To Help My Children With Their Digital Footprint

The idea is to guide your children and help them learn some basic lessons, such as:Help with digital footprint

  • How to present themselves honestly and positively online
  • Only say nice things online – save any other comments to the offline world if they must be made at all
  • What they do online will follow them through life (politicians know this all too well!)
  • The importance of helping other people online
  • Treating others online how they wish to be treated themselves (the good old ‘golden rule’ in digital format)

This is the essence of what’s known as “digital citizenship”. You will find it impossible and pointless to stop your child being online, so don’t beat yourself up trying to hide from the online world. The more you try to hide them from this world, the more they’ll find it at school and with their friends. The idea is to help your child portray themselves online in a way that will help them to develop and grow into a well-respected member of their community.


How Involved Should I Be With My Children’s Use Of Technology?

Digital citizenshipThis is a great question with a much-disputed answer! You don’t want to spy on your children, however you do need to monitor what they are getting up to online. Most parents monitor their children’s use of technology less and less as they get older.

It’s important at times to check your child’s phone for text messages, and check on their social media activity. Don’t be obsessive with this in any way, you need to show your child that you trust them as this will encourage more responsible behavior.

Checking what your children are up to may alert you to problems they may be having that they need your help with. They may be being bullied, or they may be bullying others. They may not otherwise be willing to come to you for help. It also gives you the opportunity to help them out of sticky situations, and to help them develop a positive digital footprint that won’t cause them trouble in future.


In Summary

You’re not expected to be the world’s expert on technology. Understandably it’s not your natural language and it can be daunting – the more you learn about the digital world, the more you realize there is to learn!

If you can help your children become digital citizens by teaching them about leaving a positive digital footprint, and if you can monitor their usage without completely infringing on their privacy, you’re on your way to raising children who can navigate smoothly and effectively in today’s digital world.

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