As we rely more and more on digital tools to conduct our daily business, an ever-growing number of face-to-face interactions are going through computers and smartphones.  These devices help your child discover the world around them, stay in touch with friends and family, and pursue their interests.  However, while being immersed in these digital worlds, it can be easy to forget that real people are on the receiving end of their online messages, texts, games and social media posts.

As parents, we strive to teach our kids the importance of being kind, generous and respectful members of society. It is important to emphasize the role that ethics and values play when using technology. Here are some points you can discuss with your child to help them stay a safe, considerate and respectful cyber citizen.

  • Online activities can have a real impact on your child’s future opportunities. Remind them that what they post online - even when they do it anonymously – will either build or harm their reputation. Party pictures, embarrassing videos, or incriminating posts may seem harmless now, but employers and selection committees take a harsher stand and will review a candidate’s online presence as far as possible.
  • Being unkind online could be illegal. Discuss with them the reality that “liking” or sharing a post that humiliates, torments or harasses another person is a form of cyberbullying. It’s not just about causing pain and humiliation: it could also mean that your child could face criminal charges for their participation.
  • Sharing photos without permission has serious consequences. It may be an awkward subject to approach, but the act of sharing explicit content with someone (sexting) can have serious consequences on those involved, including prosecution under new legislation in Canada that has made the non-consensual distribution of intimate images illegal.
  • Staying safe online also includes staying away from downloads, torrents, and pirated material. Part of being a safe and respectful cyber citizen involves respecting copyright laws when obtaining movies, music or software. Not only does this prevent them from facing criminal charges, but it also reduces the likelihood of getting their devices exposed to viruses and malicious software (which can then infect your entire network).

The cyber ethics that you discuss with your child will help them make good decisions online.  Keeping the lines of communication open, setting ground rules for their online activity, and having frank conversations with your child will ensure that they take advantage of everything the digital lifestyle has to offer, with minimal hurt to them or anyone around.

For more information about cyber security and cyberbullying, please visit GetCyberSafe.ca