How Parents Can Create Digital Citizenship Plans With Their Kids


Parents have the dual responsibility of modeling positive values in real time and preparing their kids for good digital citizenship. If your toddlers are already tapping and swiping, it's important that you start making digital citizenship an ongoing part of your family dialogue.

Digital Citizenship: Role of Parents

There's a gateway to the world on your desktop. People make friends, share information, discover the universe and even fall in love online, just like they do in person. Unfortunately, virtual space can be tricky to navigate safely and sometimes serves as a home for virtual predators. Parents have the dual responsibility of modeling positive values in real time and preparing their kids for good digital citizenship, and we can show you how.

Do Your Research

The first time your child presses post, an indelible online identity begins to form. Because some toddlers are already tapping and swiping, it's important to make digital citizenship an ongoing part of your family dialogue. This can be challenging for parents whose upbringing did not include as much as a passing reference to trolling, hacking or phishing.

The good news is that the problem is also part of the solution. Advice is just a few keystrokes away. There's plenty of information available online to help you and your kids trek through the internet jungle without coming face-to-face with lions, tigers or any other unexpected dangers. The Google site, Be Internet Awesome, is a handy place to start learning the habits of good digital citizenship.

Guidance is offered across these five dimensions:

  • Distinguishing true information from false information
  • Sharing information appropriately
  • Keeping personal data secure
  • Respecting the feelings of others
  • Knowing when to ask for help or advice

There are plenty of other online resources about digital citizenship to round out your research.

Family Developing for Digital Citizenship

Make It a Family Affair

Schools are including digital citizenship in lesson plans and curriculums, and teachers play an important part in the electronic education process. Although many adults can be mentors and role models, parents are a child's true North Star. By limiting these discussions to the classroom, you may send the message that expectations for online behavior are different, or less important, than the values and ethics learned at home. Good digital citizenship includes some new rules, but the standards for positive and respectful interactions with others are universal. By creating a family plan for online success, you can reinforce this concept.

Developing your family plan is an effective way to begin having conversations with your kids about important or challenging topics. This is an opportunity for sharing. Kids come to the table with skills and abilities and parents bring wisdom and experience. Working as a team, you can create guidelines that will help everyone feel confident about online safety, keep kids engaged with learning and establish patterns of communication. If problems arise parents will be the first, not the last, to know.

Keep It Real

Schedule Time for a Digital Citizenship Plan

It's easy to let meal prep, laundry, homework and other routine responsibilities get in the way of starting a new project. Here are some steps you can take to make sure the entire family gives creating your plan the attention and value it deserves:

1) Schedule time on your family calendar for these discussions.

2) Agree on goals, steps and a time line, from planning to launch date.

3) Discuss desired outcomes, such as building trust, keeping safe and sharing information.

4) Assemble materials or do research as needed.

5) Assign each family member a task. For example:

  • Ask kids to search for age-appropriate information about good digital citizenship.
  • Have parents review the research and draft a written plan. Google's five dimensions for internet awesomeness are examples of concepts to build on. You could list behaviors and activities in each of those areas. Or you could use another framework that you discover on your own.

6) Agree, as a group, on the final document.

There is one responsibility that takes precedence above all other conversations concerning online behavior. Every child should know what to do if they discover troubling, scary or inappropriate material. Make sure that your kids are able to confide in you without shame or the fear of blame or punishment. A calm and positive approach to this conversation will help to create an environment of trust.

Have Fun

Everyone is more engaged when they're having fun. To bring your plan to life, consider activities that highlight good digital citizenship.

Make Your Digital Citizenship Plan Fun

Here are some examples you can build on:

  • Start family social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). Discuss what contributes to a positive online identity. Select posts and pictures together that reflect that image.
  • Ask each family member to identify a ''Site of the Week'' and describe what they like about it.
  • Search for and encourage your kids to play games that promote appropriate online behavior.
  • Develop your family's ''Top Ten Rules for Digital Safety, Acts of Online Kindness and Things To Remember Before You Post.'' (You get the idea.)

Live Your Values


Getting your plan on paper is just the beginning - difficult or uncertain situations challenge us to think quickly. It takes practice to prevent anger and frustration from gaining control over the keyboard and better judgment. Find time to keep learning and communicating with your kids about their online experiences, and actively look for teachable moments. Technology is bringing the virtual and physical worlds closer together; with strong parental guidance, kids can learn to be good citizens in both.

Want to make sure your kids continue to be good online ambassadors for your family and themselves while exploring the world? An easy way to do this is to gather and share information through's collection of resources, available for all ages and grade levels.

By Debby Rice
February 2019
k-12 parent tips

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