The internet can be an amazing tool for discovering information, connecting with friends, and family, and peers around the world, reading and watching all sorts of media, and even just finding cute animal pictures and uplifting stories that remind you that the world is indeed a good place.
The Negative Aspects Of The Web
However, the web can also be a pretty awful place - and it might be particularly awful at the moment, given the political culture in the Western World that has seemingly lowered the level of acceptable discourse to somewhere around elementary school bullying.
But that's not the case everywhere - and it certainly shouldn't be the case in your home! You can be the first line of defense against internet bullying - both in regard to protecting your kids from bullies and teaching them to avoid propagating or supporting the bullies themselves.
It's An Ongoing Conversation
Modeling good internet behavior should be an ongoing conversation - you never want your kids to feel like they can't talk to you about something that's bothering them, and you should also be fairly open (within reason of course, adults need some privacy) with your own social media, especially if there is something relevant to discuss or a "teachable moment" presents itself.
In addition, tell your children to talk to you right away if they are being mistreated on social media, and be nonjudgmental and relaxed enough so that they actually feel comfortable talking to you! That's easier said than done, of course, but having this type of relationship is invaluable in so many ways beyond your kids' internet usage!
Teaching Your Kids How To Use The Internet To Enhance Their Lives
One of the biggest gaps and issues that parents today face is teaching their kids about the positive sides of the web while also avoiding the negative aspects. But you don't want your children to be afraid of the internet either! After all, there is a lot of good stuff to be discovered there, and the web's ability to connect people with each other and with information is absolutely unsurpassed.
That's why it is important for your kids to understand what they can do with the internet and why it is valuable - you should never just ban access or restrict it without explanation. Model appropriate behavior with your own internet use as well; consider it resource and a way to discover information and connect with friends, family, and people who share your interests.
The Power To Shape The Way The World Uses The Web
Last but not least, remember that as a parent, you're raising the next generation of internet users - of internet citizens, really - which means your actions are shaping and influencing their behavior online.That's a lot of power considering the fundamental role that the web plays in our lives, and with that kind of great power comes a certain responsibility.
Be Their Best Role Model
So how do you start modeling good internet behavior? It's actually a pretty easy conversation to start at the moment, thanks to the most recent U.S. election and the way events unfolded on the web and in social media.
What's more, you can point out the good and bad ways that celebrities and people in the news and more importantly, on your own social media are communicating, along with sharing the ways that you use the internet to enhance your and your family's lives.
E.g. the internet isn't just Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, after all. It's Wikipedia, it's the news, it's millions of books, and it's Google - your kids should be using search engines and all sorts of other resources in addition to social media. And they should see you using them too, not just spending your own time on Facebook and Instagram or the social sites of your choice.
Show them the type of internet behavior that you want to see, and you'll be modeling excellent internet citizenship for the next generation.