When I was a kid my parents constantly reminded me of basic life skills: look both ways before you cross the road; don’t talk to strangers; slip, slop, slap; if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all; don’t watch too much TV, it rots the brain…
At first, I’m sure these “parenting slogans” were simply repeated as the need arose. But over time I recall demonstrations. Dramatic head turning before crossing the street, Dad covering his face with bright orange zinc, role modelling that clarified the rules applied to parent and child alike.
These principles seemed to come naturally to my parents, no doubt passed onto them by their parents. Arguably, some “rules” grew in importance as the world changed, as more was understood about UV rays, as roadshow became busier – but the underlying principle didn’t change from one generation to the next.
Parents of today however are the first to guide and nurture through the digital age.
An era where kids, reportedly, spend more time online than watching TV.
Where the number of serious complaints of cyber bullying, to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, grew by 63 percent in 2016-2017.
Where children as young as four are being (accidentally) exposed to adult content online.
Parents of today are writing a new rule book, a new set of life skills. Skills which are proving just as life critical as safely crossing the road! There is no time for excuses, not understanding technology is not an option, even if it is undeniably daunting.
There are simple things we can all do, things that don’t really differ from “olden day” life rules. Here’s an attempt at an upgrade – from one generation to the next:
- If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all upgrades to If you wouldn’t say it face to face, don’t say it online
- Don’t talk to strangers upgrades to If you haven’t met them in real life (in person!) don’t talk to them online
- Don’t watch too much TV, it will rot your brains upgrades to Disconnect, have some time offline every week for your mental health
And a favourite of mine, that I haven’t quite found version 1.0 of, but I’ll share it anyway: ask before you share a picture of someone online (even your kids!). Of course, a better, more respectful internet won’t be achieved by a series of sayings, we all need to role model it – in every interaction.
Thankfully, there is lots of help to support you in building these new life skills. And Safer Internet Day is a timely reminder of all the resources and tools that exist. By learning together, role modelling respect, security and safety online we can all contribute to a better internet.
So this Safer Internet Day show respect to the online world by learning a little more about it!
Check out the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to learn more.