Kids and teenagers need to follow the limits and guidelines that the majority of families have set when using digital gadgets. The importance of digital citizenship is hoping to be appreciated by parents.

A majority of families have set limits and guidelines that their kids and teenagers need to follow when using digital gadgets. Here is hoping that parents nowadays appreciate how important digital citizenship is just as potty training was important to them when their children were toddlers.

Articles on tips for cyber security, safety and bullying online are plenty. There are also so much you can read about what you must do when you happen to see abuse online or find yourself being victimized by a scammer or a cyber-criminal.

At present, a deluge of beneficial articles will assist you in managing your online integrity and many other services, such as Reputation.com, which can help you maintain your virtual image and protect the privacy of your family online.

Nevertheless, I have not found a lot of articles dealing with what you can do to discipline your teenagers who might abuse their privileges in terms of using the Internet or cell phone.

What specific acts can be considered digital abuse?

Here are several listed:

• Posting improper comments, photos or videos

• Sharing too much personal information

• Joining questionable chat forums

• Cyber-bullying, cursing, teasing or harassing people online

• Buying items online without parental consent

• Sending abusive tweets

Sexting or passing mean text messages

                        - Sending or posting anything with the purpose of hurting or harming people

Dear parents, surely you have more things you can add to that list; but I suppose many of us, more or less, think along the same lines when it concerns our teens and digital abuse.

We have to bear in mind that this does not concern being a cruel parent; it is all about safeguarding your children’s future. It is a given that your teen’s name will enter into the “Google-wash-cycle” even before they even reach college or work for an employer later on. In short, you are protecting their future by being determined on setting your digital rules.

I talk to parents regularly concerning their experiences pertaining to the consequences for their teenagers when they violate their digital limits. At first, they decide to simply take away all the devices; but that does not solve the problem. We have to admit it; technology exists practically everywhere — at every street corner and each friend will have a device they can always borrow, so taking out the technology will only strain them out for a while. Eventually, they will find their way back into cyber-wonderland.

Certainly, not all cases are the same, and depending on the specific conditions, the age and mental development of the teen, combined with their particular acts, parents can determine how each situation can be addressed.

Once you find out your teen has overstepped the family’s online rules, it is time to have a serious talk and assess what your teenager went through. Listen to them first, then make them understand why there will have to suffer the consequences — explaining clearly that they have abused their privilege. It is vital that they appreciate the gravity of their mistakes so they can learn and grow from the experience.

What about punishment? Well, we will not condone such extreme cases set by parents, one father in North Carolina taking a gun to his daughter’s laptop or a mother went so far as to think having her daughter shame herself publicly online would provide her a better understanding of how your virtual image can be affected online. Such approaches are definitely overkill.

An excellent article on McAfee’s Blog Central posted recently by Family Safety Evangelist Toni Birdsong entitled, What Should the Consequences Be for a Teens’ Digital Slip-Up?, might enlighten many of us.

She enumerated several outstanding points that parents must consider when their teens slip-up online.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Make sure they get the “why”. Discuss clearly the dangers related to the behavior and why it will not be tolerated. If the matter on hand is sexting, then clarify the personal risk of trusting another person and the legal risks of having or posting sexual pictures.
  • Be consistent. If you decide on a three-week no-phone-use imposition, keep to that “sentence” even if it may be such a strain on you and your family’s digital habits. If you stick to the outcome, you gain to win the fight and curtail or control the behavior and send the message that the harsh application of the “law” can still happen in the future.
  • Let them write it down. It may appear old school, but writing an essay in this world of impulsive clicking has worked wonders in our home. Parenting involves a lot of teachable moments, so utilize this chance to impart wisdom. Have your teen child compose an article on the risks involved in their behavior. Whether bullying, sexting, racism, suggestive texting, racism, cursing, or gossip — great lessons can be derived through studying and writing. Be aware that many tweens and teens are obviously naïve as to technology’s ability to cause harm and damage and that they simply still have many things to learn.

The use of the Internet and cell phones comes as a privilege, not a right. Teenagers must understand that abusing the privilege will result in consequences. From the time they give their child any kind of device, parents have to make sure what the limits are and what the results of crossing them will be.

Communicating clearly is the parent’s best tool for educating children, in general, and it applies as well to digital parenting. Always strive to be consistent and firm; most of all, remain to be a parent first.

Takeaway tips:

• Always begin digital parenting offline through face-to-face communication

• Be clear and firm on the expectations and the consequences from cyber abuses you have imposed for your teen’s behavior online

• Learn from cyber errors; find every opportunity for teachable digital moments

• Always discuss digital citizenship as often as possible, focusing on its importance

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