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Teaching Our Children Online Responsibility

This article highlights the importance of children being responsible online and explains to caregivers how they can teach children online responsibility.

Teaching responsibility has always been a wonder for adults and children. 

First, let’s understand what responsibility means? Let us frame responsibility, as the ability of an individual to consider themself the source power to influence the environment and people around them instead of the individual waiting for the environment to affect their behaviour or situation. 

Either online or offline your children need to learn responsibility at a young age. Learnt behaviour develops with the person and remains a sustainable skill that your child uses in very important situations.  

During this process of teaching responsibility, your children need to be monitored. You are the most often cited source of advice and the biggest influence on your children’s understanding of appropriate and inappropriate digital behaviour. 


How to monitor your child’s behaviour in the digital world:  

Many parents are now faced with the challenge of how to effectively monitor their child’s behaviour, interactions and time spent in various online spaces.  

There are many steps you can take as a parent to monitor your child’s behaviour in the digital world: 

  • Check websites that children are visiting 
  • Check your child social media pages, photos, comments, etc. 
  • Look through your child phone messages & records  
  • Use parental control for blocking, filtering or monitoring children’s online activities 
  • Use parental controls to restrict children’s cell phone use  
  • Know the passwords for the online platforms that your child uses  

Do not become a very directive leader in monitoring your child online, or post and comment on your child’s social media page or photos things that are direct to monitoring. For example, putting a comment on your child’s photo that could put him in a shameful situation which you consider as monitoring, such as “Remove this photo or I will ….”.  


How to teach your child to behave and act responsibly online:  

Most parents talk with their children about appropriate conduct in their digital lives, but discussions about appropriate offline behaviour tend to be more frequent. 

What does it mean to be responsible online?  How do we counter what feels like a culture of irresponsibility and hate-fuelled online behaviour? 

Let’s dig deeper into actions that you can take with your child: 

Responsible parents, responsible children:

You heard this before lead by being a role model for your children. Your children look up to you as their parents to show them the way. They see what you do whether you like it or not. You can tell them what to do until your exposed, but your words will fall flat if you’re not leading the way by example. 

If you’re in “Do as I say, not as I do” mode you’ll find it extremely difficult to make any positive progress with this challenge, or with any parenting challenge for that matter. 

Show your child your social media activity so they can see first-hand what it means to be polite and respectful to other people online. Show them how you think about any possible impacts of your posts before you share them with others. And let them see examples of posts that are not polite or respectful. 

If you don’t do it, start immediately and lead! 


Serious discussions: 

Have serious discussions with your child about their online behaviour, like the kinds of things that should and should not be shared online. 

Showing seriousness and a proper responsible attitude toward your children is highly important. Serious discussions mean becoming your child’s friend and both being responsible for the agreement you are building together.  

Some parents show some neglect or lack of responsibility towards this matter since they are not aware of the subjects they are talking about, or their behaviour is not aligned in what they are agreeing with.  


Topics and subjects to discuss with your child concerning online behaviour:

Introduce to your child and discuss with them the two topics below:  

  • Being a responsible digital citizen means using technology appropriately and operating online safely and knowledgeably by acting in an ethical and respectful way, behaving lawfully, protecting their own and other people privacy, recognizing their rights & netiquette 
  • Netiquette which is the correct or acceptable way of using the Internet and respecting other users' views and displaying common courtesy when posting your views to online discussion groups. 


Treat other people how you wish to be treated 

As a responsible parent, you have intrinsic values that are used daily in dealing with people online or offline at work, with your family and friends and in social events. Many of these values are based on a golden rule that many children are not aware of “treat other people how you wish to be treated”, articulate and communicate them clearly to your child as below or you see suitable: 

  • Being dependable so people know they can count on you 
  • keeping one’s word and agreements 
  • Doing something to the best of one’s ability 
  • Being accountable for one’s behaviour 
  • Accepting credit when you do things right and acknowledging mistakes 
  • Setting self-boundaries and to others  
  • Thinking critically and doubt the information coming your way  
  • Being willing to ask for help when you face unknown or risks 
  • Believing that you can solve problems you encounter 

Explain these values by giving specific examples in each communication you do with your child. 


High self-esteem leads to child increase responsibility and ownership:

Two essential components of self-esteem, feeling lovable and feeling capable: 

  • Feeling lovable: tell your children that you love them unconditionally by saying I will always love you, you can come back to me no matter what and I will listen to support you and no judgements are made, I love spending time with you, I am so glad that you are my child, this is your home.  
  • Feeling Capable by believing and acting that they can handle challenges and that they are able to make a contribution to their environment, and when they feel pride in an accomplishment you can communicate by saying Thank you so much for accepting this responsibility and accomplishing the things we agreed on, I know you can do this, I really appreciate you coming to me for support.  

You can always rephrase and say it in your own words to your child, the most important matter is that you do it and communicate it clearly.  

On another note, let’s not forget grandparents, who are increasingly called upon to provide childcare for their grandkids. We must make sure we get seniors online safety resources so that they can become an additional partner to help children learn about online safety. 


Evaluate your child’s online behaviour 

Evaluating your child’s online behaviour is a part of your responsibility. Once you build the above agreement, you need to have a continuous discussion with your child on how much they are achieving or lacking certain skills and based on that discussion you can build new steps for the future, adjust the agreement continuously, until you reach a point where it becomes a habit and what I like to call a heart contract where you both feel safe discussing and adjusting your behaviour.  

Most parents would love their children to do what they ask, to follow directions and not question their authority. However, this is not a responsibility!! These behaviours would be classified as obedience. 


Over time, most parents want their children to accept ownership for a certain behaviour, the children do it because it needs to be done and accept that it is their obligation. Over time, they may even initiate doing a task “because it needs to be done” not because they are being told to do it. This attitude would be called responsibility. 

Responsibility is the key offline or online! Teach your child to become the source of power.  

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Call to Action

Before teaching your child online responsibility check whether you are responsible when online and that your children could follow your lead.

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