5 Digital Family Values to Embrace to Make the Internet a Better Place

A better internet — one free of bullying, division, hate, and crime — isn’t just an aspiration, it’s truly possible. And, it starts with the individual digital user. It starts with you, with me, and the next generation of users we’re raising up. That’s the message of the annual worldwide Safer Internet Day, which is Tuesday, February 6.

The global movement has a message this year to “create, connect and share respect” online and challenges everyone from parents, to youth, to educators, to businesses to focus on how to use the internet’s power to bring people together.

We’ve put together a list of values to consider that might help your family respond to the challenge of Safer Internet Day. Can one family make the internet a safer, more positive place for us all? We think so. People affect change and influence millions of people every day online. Each one of us has the choice to lead or sit on the sidelines on this critical topic. Even the smallest act of kindness or respect online generates digital ripples. So, just begin. (You can also join in the worldwide social media push with a Thunderclap post supporting #SID2018 on the morning of Feb. 6 to kick start Safer Internet Day)!

5 Digital Family Values to Upload Every Day

  1. The value of the pause.

    The online culture gives our discernment a workout every second, doesn’t it? Teaching kids to become critical thinkers who are responsible for their online choices is a value that is reinforced in big and small ways every day. A few questions to challenge kids to ask before posting might be:

  • Is this a value I share or am I just echoing my friends?
  • Am I too emotional to be online right now?
  • Do I have all the facts before I respond?
  • What’s the flip side of this issue, the other opinions?
  • Is what I want to say online necessary, helpful, or kind?
  1. The value of empathy.

    Empathy is making a genuine attempt to understand another person’s struggle and it’s a powerful way to combat bullying, hate, and prejudice online. Digital communication can make it harder to feel empathy for other people. Hearts get lost in the clicking, liking, and sterile acronyms. Looking for ways to teach empathy means highlighting real-life situations and asking your kids to think deeper, put themselves in another person’s shoes, and genuinely reflect on the emotional fallout.

  2. The value of responsibility.

    Making the internet a safer place for all, requires parents and kids to embrace, repeat, and consider the basic safety principals that create our digital footprint. One way is to help kids understand their digital footprint and the responsibility that comes with owning a digital device of any kind. Pose these questions to your child:

  • Is this something you really want everyone to know that about you?
  • What do you think this photo communicates about you (use adjectives)?
  • How do you think that person would feel if he or she saw your post about them a few years from now?

One of the best ways to grow your child’s sense of digital responsibility is to role-play. Find teachable moments in which empathy or responsible online behavior has been ignored.

Ask your child questions that will challenge him or her to verbalize what another person might be feeling or thinking. Putting words to a cruel or unfair situation brings it to life and is an effective way to dismantle stereotypes, prejudices, and digital inequities.

4. The value of media literacy.

Media literacy is a skill that allows digital users to become critical thinkers and creators, effective communicators, and active digital citizens. This means we all play a role in making the Internet a safe place to exchange ideas and appropriate content. Cyberwise.org is an excellent media literacy equipping hub for families and educators.

5. The value of parental example.

If you’re serious about influencing your child’s behavior online, the most powerful teacher is you. Take inventory. Be the example of a balanced, responsible, empathy-driven internet user. Model balance. Limit your time on social networks when at home, unplug consistently, don’t let technology come before people. Model responsibility. Post and comment wisely, and always keep your emotions in check online. Model humility. Part of being the example includes being able to admit your digital mistakes. Kids need to know you aren’t perfect and learn from how you handled a digital situation such as cyberbullying, a political argument, or even a closeted tech addiction. Be open, honest, and candid in leading your kids in social appropriateness. Model empathy. Be sensitive to others online. Use your wisdom to mend a broken situation and do the harder thing in an emotion-charged circumstance. Your kids are watching you.

toni page birdsong



Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures). 


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