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How to Raise a Responsible Digital Citizen

Posted on Dec 15, 2015 3:00:00 PM by Kim Schlauch

digital citizens

Like it or not, in today’s world, the internet and social media have become a way of life for adults and children alike.  As a result,  just as it is important to teach our children how to be good citizens in their physical community, it is imperative that we raise responsible digital citizens as well.  

According to the Digital Citizenship Institute, digital citizenship refers to the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use, and a responsible digital citizen is one who knows what is right and wrong, exhibits intelligent technology behavior, and makes good choices when using technology.

Here are 5 ways you can raise a responsible digital citizen:

Stay Engaged

Surf the internet with your children or pay attention to which websites or online communities they visit as well as the social media platforms in which they participate.  Be a positive influence by reacting in a constructive manner when they encounter or engage in inappropriate content.

mom and child on computer

Teach Them to Be Critical Thinkers

Help your child navigate the internet by working together to identify safe, credible sites.  Identify examples of pages or icons they should be cautious about clicking on or downloading and explain the implications of such actions so they know how and why to avoid them in the future.

Help Them to Play Safe

Help your children to understand the public nature of the internet and how to interact safely with those they might interact with online.  Make sure they understand that any information they share, such as content, photos, and texts, can be shared or copied and therefore available to potentially anyone.

Encourage Them to Be Kind To Others

Teach your children to mind their online manners.   Encourage them to practice treating others with the same respect online as they would in person.  This includes not posting or sharing anything about others that might be hurtful, mean or embarrassing.

Show Them How to Leave a Positive Footprint

In today’s world, developing a positive digital footprint, or online presence, is a must.  Encourage your children to think carefully about what they are posting on social media sites and publishing on the web.  Help them to understand what is appropriate and what is not.  Maintaining a positive digital footprint can help keep your child out of trouble with the law as well as make a good impression on friends, teachers and future bosses.

In addition to these suggestions, the best way to raise a responsible digital citizen is to set a good example by becoming one yourself.

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Kids & Technology: Is Connecting Disconnecting Your Family?

Posted on Dec 12, 2015 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

screen time

Whether fondly or not, most of us can remember to some degree life before the internet and the introduction of many other modern technological conveniences.  However, our children don’t know a life without them and in many ways technology has become an integral part of their lives at a very early age.

On average, children in America are spending over six hours a day “connected” to electronic media, including computers, television, video games and other electronic devices.  While technology does have its benefits, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.  Here are several ways over-connecting can adversely affect children:

  • Increases Isolation.   Spending too much time connected to electronic media creates an environment in which children remain disconnected from those around them, especially family members.  This limits family interaction and can create an emotional gap between children and parents.

  • Hinders Social Development.  Spending time with family members helps children learn how to interact with other people.  Children who spend too much time with technology run the risk of not getting the personal face-to-face time needed to develop proper social skills to be able to relate to others.

  • Invites Questionable Influences.  While children may be disconnecting from those around them, they are still connecting with someone or something.  It could be with unsavory strangers through social media or innapropriate content on websites.

kids connecting on computers

Ways to Reconnect

To minimize these risks and to help keep “connecting” from disconnecting your family, here are three things you can do.

1. Establish Boundaries

Establish and communicate your expectations regarding technology usage.  These expectations may include limits on the amount or type of media your children may use, the length of time they may use them, and times and places where electronic devices are not to be used.  Once these boundaries are established, be sure to consistently enforce them and modify them as necessary.

2. Get Involved

Pay attention to what your children are doing.  Stay connected and stay educated.  Monitor their activities and keep the lines of communication open.  These actions will show your children you care and will allow for constructive conversations that can help them make better decisions regarding what is appropriate and what is not as it relates to content and who they interact with online.

3. Spend Quality Time Together

Make the effort to spend “disconnected” time together.  Eat meals together and engage in meaningful conversation.  Schedule a family game night.  Start a family book club.  You might even consider “connecting” together, as long as it is not done in isolation.  For example, watch a movie together, but make time to discuss it together as a family afterwards.

Childhood is fleeting.  Family is a precious gift.  Take the time to connect with and enjoy one another.

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Your Children and Cell Phones: How Young is Too Young?

Posted on Apr 18, 2015 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

boy with cell phone

Rapid advancements in technology in this day and age have and will continue to revolutionize the way we live our lives.  While these technological advancements offer many benefits, they present a number of challenges to us as parents.  One challenge is the simple notion of determining whether or not having the technology available is reason enough to equip our children with it.

Consider the cell phone, for example.  This device affords the opportunity to communicate virtually anytime, anywhere and provides instant access to information and entertainment.  Research indicates the cell phone is the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world.  Over 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and while the number of child cell phone users is increasing, the average age of that user is decreasing.  But how young is too young?

Before we answer this question, let’s take a look a few of the pros and cons of children and cell phones.

Pros:

  • Safety. Cell phones offers a way for you and your child to reach one another in an emergency.  In addition, the GPS function allows you a viable way to keep track of your child’s location.

  • Convenience/Accessibility. The device provides a way to connect with your children if they need to be picked up earlier due to a cancelled practice or you need to inform them of a change in plans.

Cons:

  • Cost.  With cell phone ownership comes the cost of hardware (including the initial purchase as well as potential replacement expenses due to loss, damage or theft), monthly fees, not to mention the additional charges associated with exceeding the established data plan.

  • Unexpected Consequences. Using the device exposes children to potential risks, such as the possibility of cyber predators, internet access dangers, the transmission of trackable questionable content, text and cyberbullying.

  • Distraction. Providing children with cell phones gives them the ability to connect 24/7, along with the potential for their involvement with the device to interfere with other activities, such as homework, chores, and face-to-face time with family and friends.

    cyberbullying

So How Young is Too Young?

Answer: It depends on the individual child.

While many have opinions regarding how old children should be before they are given access to a cell phone, it is actually not so much a question of age, but more of readiness.  As the parent, it is up to you to determine whether your child is ready to handle the responsibility of cell phone use.

Here are 3 helpful questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not your child is ready:

1. Why?  Why does your child want the responsibility of owning a cell phone?  “Because all my friends have one!” is not a good reason to offer the privilege.  If you determine there is legitimate merit in your child having his or her own phone, before committing to the expense and potential challenges related to child cell phone ownership, consider whether usage needs can be achieved through other means.  For example, if your child needs an easy way to call home from extra-curricular activities, would it be better to start with the purchase of a prepaid family cell phone that could be borrowed by the child as needed?

2. Is my child ready for the responsibility?  Owning a cell phone is a big responsibility.  As mentioned previously, there is the potential that your child could lose or break the hardware or exceed the data plan limits.  In addition, the device also has the capability to become a major distraction for children, luring them away from their other responsibilities and keeping them connected when they should otherwise be unplugged.

3. Is my child mature enough?  Is your child ready to experience the freedom of cell phone usage as well as the related consquences?  Can your child identify and deal with inappropriate text or internet content?  Does your child understand the privacy risks of interacting with others by phone, text or through the internet?

If you’ve done your due diligence and have determined that your child is old enough in terms of his or her readiness for the responsibility of a cell phone, keep in mind your job has only just begun.  As the parent, your continued role is to set the expectations and the example for cell phone use.  Keep the lines of communication open and monitor usage to ensure your child  is using the cell phone in a safe and responsible manner.

child with cellphone


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5 Savvy Cell Phone and Texting Etiquette Tips for Families

Posted on Apr 7, 2015 3:00:00 PM by Kim Schlauch

texting

Rapid advancements in technology have had a tremendous impact in today’s world, making communication much faster and easier than it once was.  Long gone are the days when telephones were attached to walls and you could only travel as far as the cord would stretch during a phone conversation.  So is the pre-answering machine era when you were hesitant to leave the house for fear of missing that important phone call.  Nowadays, communication can take place anytime, anywhere.

While modes of communication may have changed, the need for good manners and for demonstrating respect for others during those interactions has not.  Here are five cell phone and texting etiquette tips for you and your family to consider before making your next call or sending that next text:

  1. Be Present.  The best way to show respect for others is to give them the gift of your attention.  The person in the room with you deserves your full attention as well as the courtesy of having a say in how technology will be used in his or her presence.  In other words, if you need to make a call or send a text when you are with someone, ask permission first.clock

  2. Respect Boundaries and Time Limits.  Unless the recipient’s device is turned off, your call or text will likely result in an immediate notification on your recipient’s end.  As such, be considerate and respectful of the time and circumstances before calling or texting.  For example, if a phone conversation has ended because the person on the other end has been called to dinner with the family, respect that family time and hold off on texting or calling back during the meal.  In addition, be mindful of bedtimes and refrain from calling or texting when the intended recipient might be sleeping.

  3. Be Sensitive to Tone When Texting.  Communication encompasses much more than simply the words being conveyed.  Body language, eye contact and tone of voice are important nonverbal components of interpersonal interactions.  None of these can be conveyed through a text, leaving plenty of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  With that in mind, be aware that the message you send may not be completey clear to the receiver.  If it is something that might be easily misconstrued, perhaps texting is not the best way to deliver the message.

  4. Think Twice Before Hitting the Send Button When Texting. Be aware that once you send a message, it is out of your hands and out of your control.  Messages can easily be forwarded, copied and viewed by countless others.  That being said, think before you hit the send button and refrain from texting anything that might be durogatory or hurtful.

  5. Don’t Text When Angry.  While it is tempting to lash out in anger when you are upset,  texting in the heat of the moment can lead to regret and further misunderstanding.  To avoid further conflict, wait until you’ve calmed down before you consider texting your message.  Better yet, determine whether a phone or in-person conversation might be a more effective way to work things out.

girl with smartphone

While some of the etiquette rules surrounding yesterday’s technology may no longer be relevant, the sentiment behind them is still quite valid.  When using your cell phone or texting device, remember to be mindful and respectful of others.

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