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We invest heavily in teaching our children about what constitutes appropriate behavior within different environments. It is also important that we help children understand that this same standard of ethics and responsibility apply to their interactions online as well.

We invest heavily in teaching our children about what constitutes appropriate behavior within different environments. It is also important that we help children understand that this same standard of ethics and responsibility apply to their interactions online as well.

Acting Ethically and Responsibly

Most people try to act responsibly and live by a set of ethical standards that they’ve learned. These guidelines for appropriate behavior may vary depending on the place we are and the people we’re with.

Just as we explicitly teach children the proper behavior in  “real life” situations, we must help kids learn how to behave appropriately, responsibly, and ethically in a variety of digital spaces: multi-player online games, social networking, etc.

Problems arise because children often feel anonymous when using the Internet or mobile phones and, since they usually don’t see the person with whom they are interacting, they don’t see the impact of the things they do or the words they use. That leads to what psychologists call “disinhibition.” Kids may act meaner, more irresponsibly, and more dangerously because it seems like they’re not harming anyone and they can get away with it. That’s one of the reasons children may cyberbully, sext, plagiarize or illegally share copyrighted content. And it’s a good reason to have a conversation with your children about cyberethics. Help them learn to apply the “golden rule” to their online interactions, to act responsibly, and to treat themselves and others with respect and kindness.

Maintaining a Digital Reputation

A concept parents should keep in mind-and teach their children-is that digital content never dies: once material is created and posted, it lives on the Internet–often for anyone to see–now and well into the future. Pictures taken by your teen at a fun party that are then posted to a social networking site, questionable comments made in a tweet, gossip about others published on a blog, all of which seem harmless at the time, can come back to haunt them down the road. Even apps that restrict access to your posts and delete them shortly after they’re made cannot prevent a friend from making a copy and using it later.

Teach your children that they have a digital reputation to maintain and protect. What they may see as fun might be viewed as inappropriate by others. Schools, colleges, potential employers, and others now routinely check Internet sources for information about applicants. Even deleting material may not make it go away entirely. Deleted material can be saved in the files of others only potentially to reappear at a latter time. Make sure your children and teens understand it’s their responsibility to maintain their online reputations and the consequences of not doing so.

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Resources

The Good Play Project

The Good Play Project is focused on the ways young people think about, and manage, moral and ethical issues as they interact with new media, including online social networks, blogs, games, and content sharing sites.

Education World

Education World, connecting educators to what works. K-12 education resources, lessons and news. Classroom strategies and innovation for teachers all over the world.