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Don’t Wait Until Adolescence to Teach Your Kids About Online Abuse

You have two choices when raising your kids in the internet age: shield them from the online bad or actively prepare them to be good e-citizens. While the former is easier and feels more safe, the latter will better serve the child through adulthood.

Nicole Tompkins-Hughes is both a video game writer and a mom. As those two roles often merge, Tompkins-Hughes has found herself at a crossroads with regard to how she wants to expose her son to the wider internet community. This important topic, the subject of her new piece up at Polygon, isn’t talked about much because most parenting advice consists of approaches from the past rather than strategies for the future. But with the internet, video games, and social media growing in popularity at an exponential rate, it’s vital that parents prepare their sons and daughters for what will no doubt be a lifetime much spent online.

From Tomkins-Hughes’ Polygon article:

“[My son’s father] and I have come to an understanding on the following: We can try to shield him as much as possible, or we can start teaching him early about the beast that is the internet. We’ve selected the latter so far. Knowing how to protect yourself online is quickly becoming  mandatory, and part of that is making sure your children know how to treat others online.”

That last bit is extremely important. Just as no parent wants their kid to become a bully, no one wants to be mom or dad to the teen who abuses people on Twitter or SWATS other gamers online. We must better educate our children early on about the duality between one’s real-life self and one’s online persona. The best way to improve the levels of behavior and discourse on the internet is to groom a generation of good e-citizens. 

Now this doesn’t mean you should start playing Call of Duty with your 4-year-old daughter or set your newborn son up with his first Tinder account. What it does mean is that you can’t treat the awfulness of the internet like it doesn’t exist, waiting until your kids reach their teenage years. By then it’s already way too late to set roots. So much of parenting is about planting seeds. You want to cultivate the growth of internet etiquette from as early as possible.

Tomkins-Hughes sets out some helpful tips for getting your kid’s internet education started on the right foot (with an emphasis on guiding her son towards becoming a courteous member of the gamer community). Her advice includes playing video games with your children, teaching the values of cooperation and teamwork, encouraging positive responses during gameplay, treating tantrums as teachable moments, and discussing the consequential impact of online bullying. Take a look at the whole article linked below and think about the ways in which we can curb later abuse by teaching our children today.

Read the entire article at Polygon

Photo credit: Goodluz / Shutterstock


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