How to Teach Kids Social Responsibility in a Connected World
Social responsibility is the idea that our actions affect others and that we should strive to impact individuals and society positively.
In today’s increasingly connected world, this sentiment rings truer than ever before. One post on social media can go viral, reach millions, and make a difference in the world—a difference that can be positive or negative.
For educators and parents, it’s crucial to teach kids the social responsibility that comes with being a global digital citizen.
Make a Positive Digital Footprint
Start by introducing the concept of a “digital footprint.” Explain that what you do on the Internet and social media today remains forever. It can be searched by colleges, employers, family members, and even your future children.
For this reason, it’s important to create a positive digital footprint. You can have older kids Google themselves and evaluate their digital footprint thus far. With kids of all ages, brainstorm ways to make a positive digital footprint. You can also discuss non-examples: What makes a negative digital footprint? What behaviors should be avoided online?
Conclude by reading about kids and teens who have used social media to advocate for positive social change. Discuss the different methods used to raise awareness and make positive change online: hashtags, petitions, emails, Tweets, etc.
Model Responsible Virtual Behaviors
The best way to learn responsible virtual behaviors is through practice. Model the right way to interact online for your students or children, then give them opportunities to practice.
A classroom, for instance, is a safe place for kids to experiment with blogging, vlogging, social media, Skype, and so on. Once your kids have learned the basics of online etiquette (also called Netiquette), you may want to connect with a class from another country.
You can use Skype Collaborations to connect with other teachers around the globe, take virtual field trips, listen to diverse guest speakers, and more. Once your class connects internationally, they can discuss global issues with their counterparts or collaborate on a positive project.
THINK Before You Post
Teach kids to THINK before they post:
T-Is it True?
H-Is it Helpful?
I- Is it Inspiring?
N- Is it Necessary?
K- Is it Kind?
If any of these questions can be answered with a “No,” then they shouldn’t make the post in question.
When teaching kids to THINK before posting, it’s important to also discuss cyber-bullying. Talk about the negative consequences of cyber-bullying. Explain that although it feels impersonal to hide behind the Internet, the bullying is very real for the victim, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Kids should not only avoid cyber-bullying themselves, but they should also speak up when they see it happening. Teach children to tell an adult if they see inappropriate online interactions. This is a great way to practice social responsibility and make a positive difference.
Adopt a Project
Find a global project for your class to adopt. Brainstorm ways to advance the cause via the Internet and social media. Have your students come up with a hashtag, send Tweets and petitions, or even create a campaign with viral videos or images.
If you aren’t sure where to start, check out Global Citizen, where you can find pre-written Tweets and emails for a wide variety of causes.
By finding a project that your kids genuinely care about and teaching them to get involved, you’ll inspire them to be global digital citizens well into the future.
In our connected world, each individual has a greater reach than previously imagined, so social responsibility has become increasingly important.
Teach children to be responsible digital citizens by discussing positive digital footprints, modeling “Netiquette” and THINKing before you post, and adopting a project advocating for positive social change.
By teaching kids social responsibility at a young age, you’re helping to create a brighter and more hopeful future.