Each new digital gadget requires that parents update or introduce a family digital device action plan — akin to the rules-of-the-road that are so critical to new drivers.
These days flashy new smartphones, iPads, iPod Touches, music players, computers, laptops, notebooks, and video games are connected in some way to the exciting, but rough and tumble world of the Internet. Sometime during the first week of gadget ownership parents and children need to sit together and review digital behavior and expectations.
Even as a youngster thrills to the capabilities of a new device, the potential for digital mistakes and judgment errors exists. A short, sarcastic comment or text can be perceived as cyber-bullying when it reaches its destination. Less than thoughtful words, sent to one person, can be forwarded easily and embarrassingly to many others. The right time to talk about acceptable use and intention versus consequence is when the device is new.
A digital action plan — an agreement, contract, or list of guidelines between you and your child — anticipates potential issues that can arise and lays out specific expectations, guiding children as they use their new devices in the wider, less supervised, digital world. I’ve attached a digital cell phone contract to the image in this post. Check out my post, So You Need A Family Digital Use Agreement.
A Few Points to Emphasize in Conversations With Your Child
- A telephone, e-mail, texting device, iPad, iPod Touch, etc. is not a toy, even though it sometimes feels like one.
- A digital device connected to the digital world decreases privacy. It is easy for pre-teens and adolescents to think that activities are completely private.
- All digital activities leave digital footprints. In fact, since even charging groceries at the grocery store leaves digital footprints, keeping a record of all the digital footprints made for one day can be fun for the family.
- Negative, mean, gossipy, or cruel comments via phone, text, or e-mail travel rapidly to other people. Reminder: If you cannot say it face-to-face, do not say it in digital form.
- Sarcasm in a message or text on one end can seem like bullying when another person reads it.
- Intentions matter less than consequences in digital life.
- Digital cameras need to be used wisely. Before sending or forwarding an image, take ten seconds to wonder if anyone in your family might think an image is unsuitable.
- No one has the right to use an individual’s image without that person’s permission. Protect your image and the images of your friends
- Avoid by-standing. If a person uses digital devices to cyber-bully, get help for the bullied student, anonymously if necessary, but right away.
Finally, the Techlicious blog features Setting Up Your Child’s New Tech Gifts. The December 26,2012 post by Suzanne Kantra reviews the steps that parents need to take to set up a new device safely and securely.