How to Teach Children About Internet Ethics and Digital Citizenship

Smart Alert Strong KInd Brave

Being a parent can be a rewarding but stressful work, and in today’s digitally connected world, it is not just physical risks to children that must be considered in modern parenting strategies. 

Giving a kid access to an internet enabled device to keep them occupied for entertainment or educational purposes is often a safe and harmless activity but, unrestricted and unsupervised use can also pave the way to modern cyber problems- like cyberbullying, online scams, privacy leak etc. 

Children may access inappropriate or adult content; social network use can lead to cyberbullying , unrealistic expectations may form of how they should look or how their lives should be; the sharing of private information may occur, there could be the promotion of risk behaviours such as meeting strangers encountered online, and sexual grooming are all concerns for today’s parents. 

The problem of the online cyberbully

If you’ve ever experienced an online troll – someone who trashes your work, calls you names and tries to pick a fight with you online – you have a pretty good idea of what could go wrong anytime you post something online. In some cases, people have left social media entirely when the threats and the name-calling became too much.

And the problem is perhaps even worse among teens, where social acceptance is such an important part of the adolescent experience.

According to, which publishes statistics and facts about teen cyberbullying, a whopping 87 percent of teens have witnessed some form of cyberbullying during adolescence and 34 percent of teens have been the actual victims of cyberbullying. . Being bullied can leave you feeling helpless, humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal.

Children are connected to social media at a time when their levels of social and emotional development leave them vulnerable to peer pressure and when they have a limited capacity to self-regulate.

Children may underreport cyberbullying, for fear their parents will restrict their time on the Internet/cell phones or discover information that the adolescents themselves have posted on the web, for fear of punishment by the bully or for embarrassment about being perceived as weak.

This is a major concern thar every parent must resolve through “let’s talk about it” sessions with their kids.

Studies show: children/tweens/teens that were exposed to cyberbullying felt:

  • Hurt feelings
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression or other more serious mental health problems
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Low self esteem
  • Inability to trust in others

When these negative emotions aren’t dealt with properly, victims may resort to the following behaviors:

  • Withdrawal, seclusion, avoidance of social relationships
  • Poor academic performance
  • Bullying others – to feel in control
  • In extreme cases – Suicide.

Time to act and make your kids Internet Awesome

To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Parent must teach their kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

Code of Smart Digital Citizenship


Share with Care

Good (and bad) news travels fast online, and without some forethought, kids can find themselves in tricky situations that have lasting consequences. The solve? Learning how to share with those they know and those they don’t.

Communicate Responsibly

  • Encourage thoughtful sharing by treating online communication like face-to-face communication; if it isn’t right to say, it isn’t right to post.
  • Create guidelines about what kind of communication is (and isn’t) appropriate.
  • Keep personal details about family and friends private.

Be a positive presence online just like IRL(in real life) — Remember, once something by or about you is online like a photo, comment, or message, it could stay online forever.

Think before you post— It’s important to know when to post nothing at all – not to react to somebody’s post, photo, or comment or not to share something that isn’t true.

Protect your secrets–Do not share your address, email, phone number, passwords,
usernames or school documents with strangers

Donʼt assume that people online will see you the way you think theyʼll see you.
Different people can see the same information and draw different conclusions from it.

It’s always important to respect other people’s privacy choices, even if they aren’t the choices you’d make yourself — Different situations call for different responses online and offline.

Family ActivityScenario 1

Privacy scenarios: What would you do?
Your kids are really excited about a trip you’ve planned to visit their grandparents, and you are too. One of them used your smartphone to post about the trip on your social media profile when you’re going and where, posting photos and “tagging” everyone, including the grandparents — in the post. Do you…

  • Tell them to delete the post because it’s unwise to post vacation dates and locations in social media because they’re basically “telling the world” that no one will be home during that time?
  • Ask them if they received permission from their grandparents if it’s okay to post those photos and tag them in social media?
  • Remind them always to ask permission of anyone they photograph and talk about online before posting something about them?
  • Tell them they can always come and ask you if they’re not sure if it’s okay to share something online?

Guidance for parents: All of these are good things to talk about as a family. You’re probably already telling your kids that it’s not a good idea to notify the world that nobody’s home, but it’s also important for kids to realize that everyone has a different comfort level around what gets shared publicly about them.

Scenario 2

Your sister has just announced to the family that she’s pregnant, and your kids are thrilled they’re going to have a little cousin. Your oldest tells you he posted a photo of their aunt and uncle with the news that they’re going to have a baby, but you hear this only after you get a text from your sister: “Hey, how do Mom and Dad know I’m pregnant? I didn’t tell them yet!”. Do you…

  • Talk with your kids about how having a baby is wonderful, but also very personal information…you know they’re excited, but it’s up to the person who’s pregnant to decide when, how, and with whom they’ll share the news?
  • Tell your son (and all your kids) that you know he didn’t mean any harm, but he needs to take the post down immediately and call the aunt to apologize for posting something about her without her permission?
  • Talk as a family about the different kinds of information that are okay to share on social media and discuss what’s appropriate: within your immediate family, with other relatives, with friends, with everybody

Guidance for parents: Just having these discussions when appropriate situations arise is beneficial; you don’t have to rush to cover it all at once. These talks should not be overwhelming. These lessons aren’t hugely different than the ones most families teach their kids about respecting privacy one of the goals of this guide is to show how those lessons apply to technology use as well.


Don’t Fall for Fake

It’s important to help kids become aware that people and situations online aren’t always as they seem. Discerning between what’s real and what’s fake is a very real lesson in online safety.

Know the Signs of a Potential Scam

  • If statements about “winning” or getting something for “free” feel too good to be true, they most likely are fake.
  • Fair exchanges shouldn’t involve giving away any personal information.
  • Always think critically before acting online and learn to trust your intuition. Be on guard for phishing attempts—efforts to steal information like login or account details by pretending to be a trusted contact in an email, text, or other online communication.
  • Before you click on a link or enter your password on a site you haven’t been to before, check that the siteʼs URL matches the product’s or company’s name and information youʼre looking for.
  • If you fall for a scam online, tell your parent, teacher, or other trusted adult right away and change your passwords to your accounts immediately.
  • Attention! Remember that website or ad canʼt tell if thereʼs anything wrong with your device! There are scams that may try to trick you into downloading malware or unwanted software by telling you that thereʼs something wrong with your device.

Family Activity

Becoming smart web searchers

  • As a family, sit down together with a tablet or computer (a mobile phone could work too — it just may be harder for everybody see the screen together) and go to your favorite search engine home page.
  • Check if the safe search feature is turned on. (It’s usually found in your search engine’s “settings” or “preferences”.)

• Pick a topic your child is interested in (a pro athlete, their favorite cause, actor or musical artist, a much-loved film or author, etc.) and type it in the search box.

  • Click on a variety of results, both from the results that appear at the top and from the ones that are found several pages deeper. Ask how they feel about results that come from results near the top vs. results they find deeper in. Do they trust one more than another? Why or why not?
  • Are there any results that you or your kids aren’t clicking? Why? (Are they “sponsored” or ads? Why would/wouldn’t you click on them? Are there sources you avoid? Why?)
  • Talk about the source and quality of the information, the “About” page on the site, etc.
  • Here are a few examples of questions you could ask each other: If you searched for a celebrity artist or athlete, is the content positive (and so maybe the site of a sponsor or fan)? If the information is negative or critical, can you find out more about the source of the criticism? (An “About Us” page, information about the site owner’s background or credentials?) Whether positive or negative, can you tell if these sources know what they’re talking about, or just sharing an opinion? If it’s a news site, is it a well-known one you feel you can trust? If not, you might want to do a search on it to see if people feel it tries to present information in a balanced way.
  • As a family, you can certainly think up your own questions’– questions are good! Thinking critically about what we find in online searches is the foundation of digital literacy and a key first step in staying safe online.


Secure Your Secrets

Personal privacy and security are just as important online as they are offline. Safeguarding valuable information helps kids avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships.

Create a Strong Password

  • Make it memorable, but avoid using personal information like names or birthdays.
  • Use a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
  • R3pl@ce le++ers wit# sYmb0ls & n^mb3rs 1ike Thi$.

Switch It Up

  • Do not use the same password on multiple sites.
  • Create a few different variations of the same password for different accounts.


It’s Cool to Be Kind

The Internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. Kids can take the high road by applying the concept of “treat others as you would like to be treated” to their actions online, creating positive impact for others and disempowering bullying behavior.

Set an Example

  • Use the power of the Internet to spread positivity.
  • Stop the spread of harmful or untrue messages by not passing them on to others.
  • Respect others’ differences.
  • Treat others how you want to be treated, both online and in real life. Example: Report the harassment. Tell someone who can help, like a parent, teacher, or school counselor.

Take Action

  • Block mean-spirited or inappropriate behavior online.
  • Make an effort to provide support to those being bullied.
  • Encourage kids to speak up against and report online bullying.

Do simple actions to turn negative interactions into positive ones. Example: If someone posts something negative online to a friend, get a bunch of friends to create a “pile-on of kindness” – post lots of kind comments about the person being bullied (but nothing mean about the aggressor, because you’re setting an example, not retaliating)


When in Doubt, Talk It Out

One lesson that applies to any and all encounters of the digital kind: When kids come across something questionable, they should feel comfortable talking to a trusted adult. Adults can support this behavior by fostering open communication at home and in the classroom.

Encourage Internet Brave Behavior

  • Be clear about family or classroom rules and expectations around technology, as well as consequences for inappropriate use.
  • Keep the dialogue going by checking in frequently and encouraging kids to ask questions.
  • Extend the conversation to other trusted adults like teachers, coaches, counsellors, friends, and relatives.
  • If you come across something that makes you feel uncomfortable or worse, report it – be brave and talk to someone you trust who can help, including a teacher, the principal, or a parent.
  • Reporting can help the people involved, their community, and the platforms themselves if we use the tools to block and/or report on a site or app.
  • If you receive a creepy message or comment from a stranger, show a trusted adult, block, and report them.

As a family, sit down together with a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer in a way that everyone can see the screen. Open your favourite social media apps or sites using two or more
family members’ accounts and figure out together how to report problems in those apps.

Sometimes kids know their way around an app better than their parents, and it can be both interesting and fun to let them demonstrate and pass on some of their social media smarts to you.

If somebody thinks of something else they want to know how to do, this is a fun time for everybody to do some learning about the technology they use together.

Download this PDF and take a print of it – Spread the message – Help other to become internet Smart and Awesome

We have Suffered the Internet Trolling, bullying and Hate Speech, Pornography and Phishing etc. But let’s pledge to make our kids and future generation does not suffer the perils of internet and make them better and smarter digital netizens

Spread the Knowledge
  • 1K
  • 500