The hottest items on many children's wish lists this season are devices that connect to the internet -- a new cellphone, a digital tablet, a video-game system or a computer.
These devices can have an significant impact on a child's development.
Technology is a powerful tool, which can help facilitate learning or provide a healthy escape into a virtual world, as well as expand the communication skills of the individual user.
With this new-found freedom comes a responsibility that sometimes goes unnoticed -- the empowerment of anonymity and how it can lead to behaviors that children normally would not express. It is important to teach a child that their online actions will leave a digital footprint that can affect their future.
Teaching authentic digital citizenship is not a new concept; it has been around since the turn of the century. We live in a world where at any given moment we are a click, tap or swipe away from connectivity to the wonders and dangers of the internet. In many cases, children are entering this online world with little instruction on how to navigate it safely or awareness of its lasting consequences on their future.
Inappropriate digital footprints have been known to cause the loss of job and college opportunities, friendships and privacy.
Learning what not to say, post and share online can save many adolescents from grief, fear, anxiety and unneeded stress.
Many of us have seen the news articles about the consequences of children sharing too much information through their digital devices -- choices that follow them to school and throughout their lives.
In the South-Western City School District, we teach students to THINK before they post, tweet or share information online. Is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind? We also teach that what students share in the digital world should mirror their physical interactions. For example, if you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't post it online.
By teaching our children these concepts, we hope to mitigate situations that could spiral out of their control.
Educating our children to the fact that their posts have consequences and practicing good digital etiquette is extremely important cannot be just a one-time event. This concept needs to be part of everyday conversations.
Parents, teachers and other influential adults should not expect children to learn on their own through trial and error, but should, act as guides through this ever-changing digital landscape.
So, when you give a digital device to a child this holiday season, please consider having a conversation with the recipient about the importance of what they say, share and how to interact safely with others. It can make a world of difference.
David Hampson is the technology liaison for the South-Western City School District.