The cyber-world is continuously evolving, and our efforts to help youth stay safe online need to keep up with the times. How can a digital citizen pledge help? With growing concerns of exposure to unwanted pornographic material, sexual predators, human trafficking, and online abuse, it’s important parents not shy away from discussing serious online threats with their children.
“Approximately one in five youth experience unwanted online exposure to sexually explicit material, and one in nine youth experience online sexual solicitation,” according to research presented in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Perhaps the most challenging concept for youth to understand about the digital world is there is no absolute privacy. Even when they share their thoughts and images one-on-one with a close friend, in a group of trusted peers, or on their private pages, all online content can be shared. During your conversations, it can be helpful to discuss an example from the news to demonstrate, especially when your child is in doubt.
Educating children and maintaining open lines of communication on potential dangers and how to respond is critical for their safety — online and off. Youth digital citizen pledges are helpful to guide cyber-safety conversations.
As you review the pledge with your child, create a comfortable environment for questions and give concrete examples. Be prepared to clarify expectations and discuss ramifications for breaking the pledge but, most importantly, let your children know you will be there for them when they need you.
Digital Citizen Pledge
Here is an example of a that can be adjusted to meet your family’s needs:
I, ______________________________, understand the expectations of my online actions and promise to:
- Only connect with people I know in real life.
- Communicate kindly.
- Respect different opinions and feelings.
- Use respectful language.
- Avoid conversations that are unkind or disrespectful.
- Only post or share appropriate photos.
- Be an upstander, and stand up to cyberbullying.
- Keep personal information private.
- Not share my login information.
- Disable location services, and never share my location with strangers.
- Choose suitable online profile names.
- Check with my parents before installing software or apps.
- Notify an adult if I:
- Receive or see content that is threatening or mean.
- Feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
- Receive nude or sexual photos.
- Am asked by strangers to meet in person.
- Receive gifts or promises of gifts from strangers.
Signature and Date
Regularly remind your children to always be kind online, share with care, and be cyber-safe.
For teens, when you discuss the digital citizen pledge may also be a good opportunity to introduce creating a positive online presence and discussing how they can strategically plan their content and engagement to help them achieve their current and future goals.