By Rianette Leibowitz, cyber wellness and safety author and speaker, Brand South Africa Play Your Part Ambassador and founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety
Parents often fight about the way kids are exposed on social media. While one parent may see it as a way to tell the world about the amazing experiences they have together, the other may be risk-averse and wish they could ban it altogether. This is why agreed-upon digital values are important for parents.
In a perfect world, we could post photos of milestones and descriptions of memorable occasions with our kids and share them with the world as proud parents. Unfortunately, this is not the case and this is important for us to talk about.
Even though this sounds like a tough task, I want to encourage you that it is possible. I would like to share some ideas…
Why do we need “digital values”?
Growing up, you might have heard: “I don’t care how your friend’s mother is doing this, because in THIS HOUSE we do…” (I can still hear my mom saying this to me, and yes, now I am the one repeating history.)
You have a certain understanding and house rules that apply to your family. Whether you are divorced or not, each home has its own set of rules. The same needs to apply to our digital lifestyles, to guide the example we set for the young ones.
Unlike physical space, where not taking out the trash or on one occasion forgetting to feed the puppy won’t necessarily have a long-term impact, dumping your emotional baggage in cyber space and hurting the vulnerable will create a lasting ripple effect.
To give clarity, you can create a “Family Charter or Constitution”, with your family’s rights and privileges. This can encourage responsible digital citizenship. It will help you to stay objective and make good decisions.
Examples of digital values
Consider the following Family Digital Values Constitution:
In this family:
- We don’t share private information (address, contact details, name of school, ages and anything else that we wouldn’t give to a stranger).
- As parents, we have the right to protect our children and ourselves in cyber space.
- As children, we expect our parents to respect our cyber space and protect us without embarrassing us.
- We show respect and think before we post.
- We don’t fight on other platforms – we talk face-to-face and keep it private.
- We only share photos that will make us feel good and we don’t share embarrassing images or information about each other.
- Always be dressed in photos (no naked photos of me, you or anyone else).
- We only tag people who have given us permission to do so.
- We don’t put each other at risk by sharing our location (posting that we are on holiday, kids are home alone, look at our new SmartTV etc).
- We respect device-free dinnertime and enjoy conversation.
- Connecting with each other is more important than connecting to the WiFi.
- We will abide by app and platform age restrictions, Terms and Conditions and Community Rules.
- We agree that we need firewalls and relevant security to protect our eyes, ears, minds and hearts.
For divorced parents, the above-mentioned applies, plus you can add:
- We share photos that we are posting online directly with the other parent (i.e. on WhatsApp) – not to get their permission, but rather to ensure that they are aware of what is being shared about the kids. (Bearing in mind that divorced parents aren’t necessarily still connected on social media.)
- We will consider our children’s physical safety and the risk we expose them to online at all times.
- We don’t breach any legal agreements or disrespect the arrangements made on behalf of our children and their wellbeing.
I hope that you are inspired and empowered to make this a priority with the aim of making the whole family feel secure.
As the children get older, they too will create their own digital footprints and how amazing it would be if they could continue the new culture that you instilled with a digital value system?
Please share any additional ideas with us or any experiences we could learn from. As always, have fun while driving on the cyber highway and we are encouraging responsible digital citizenship!
To learn more about cyberbullying and other risks associated with the internet and social media, email firstname.lastname@example.org.