Parents often fight about the way kids are exposed on social media. While the one considers it a way to tell the world about the amazing experiences they have together, the other is risk-averse and wishes they could ban it altogether.
In a perfect world we could post photos of milestones and descriptions of memorable occasions with our kids and share it with the world as proud parents. Unfortunately, this is not the case and it’s important for us to talk about it. In this article we take another step and focus on how parents can establish and manage their own family’s digital values. Even though this sounds like a tough task, I want to encourage you that it is possible and share some ideas with you to consider.
Why we need digital values
Growing up, you might have heard: “I don’t care how your friend’s mother is doing this, because in this house we do …” (I can still hear my mom saying this to me and, yes, now I am the one repeating history). You have a certain understanding and house rules that apply to your family. Whether you’re divorced or not, each home has its own set of rules. The same needs to apply to our digital lifestyles to guide the example we set for the young ones.
“How amazing would it be if they could continue the new culture you instilled with a digital value system?”
Unlike physical space, where not taking out the trash or on one occasion forgetting to feed the puppy won’t necessarily have a long-term impact, dumping your emotional baggage in cyberspace and hurting the vulnerable will create a lasting ripple effect. To give clarity you can create a “Family Charter or Constitution” to outline your family’s rights and privileges for responsible digital citizenship. It will help you to stay objective and make good decisions.
Consider the following Family Digital Values Constitution:
In this family:
- We don’t share private information (address, contact details, name of school, ages and anything else that we wouldn’t give to a stranger).
- As parents we have the right to protect our kids in cyberspace.
- As kids we expect our parents to respect our cyberspace and protect us without embarrassing us.
- We show respect and think before we post.
- We don’t fight on other platforms – we talk face to face and keep it private.
- We only share photos that will make us feel good and we don’t share embarrassing images or information about each other.
- Always be dressed in photos (no naked photos of me, you or anyone else).
- We only tag people who have given us permission to do so.
- We don’t put each other at risk (posting that we’re on holiday, the kids are home alone or look at our new SmartTV, etc).
- We respect device-free dinnertime and enjoy conversation.
- Connecting with each other is more important than connecting to the Wi-Fi.
- We will abide by app and platform age restrictions, terms and conditions and community rules.
- We agree that we need firewalls and relevant security to protect our eyes, ears, minds and hearts.
For divorced parents, the above-mentioned applies plus you can add:
- We share photos we are posting online directly with the other parent (i.e. WhatsApp) – not to get their permission, but rather to ensure that they are aware of what is being shared about the kids (bearing in mind that divorced parents aren’t necessarily still connected on social media).
- We will always consider our children’s physical safety and the risk we expose them to online.
- We don’t breach any legal agreements or disrespect the arrangements made on behalf of our children and their wellbeing.
Download a ready-to-use version of the SaveTNet Family Digital Values Constitution
I asked Adv. Veerash Srikison, Founder and Director of Fair Practice (Johannesburg) and BabyYumYum’s family law expert, her opinion was about this matter as she runs a divorce mediation practice. From her experience the couples she has worked with, in keeping with maintaining an amicable relationship, chose to keep all details about their divorce and/or ex-spouses away from social media. “They believed that no good can come from airing their ‘dirty laundry’ and how would this reflect on them as parents if, in future, their children are exposed to such content?” says Srikison.
She added, “For me, this is in line with doing what is in the best interest of your children. I take it one step further by applauding the maturity of couples for not displaying their personal feelings or thoughts on social media about the divorce and about each other, because it shows that they are genuine in maintaining a respectful relationship as co-parents. Additionally, for every action there are consequences so before you post anything negative, think about the consequences it could have on your negotiation towards settlement and the impact it will have on your children’s lives.”
I hope that you are inspired and empowered to make this a priority, with the aim to make the whole family feel secure. As the kids get older, they too will create their own digital footprints and how amazing would it be if they could continue the new culture you instilled with a digital value system? As always, have fun while driving on the cyber highway and we are encouraging responsible digital citizenship!
Rianette Leibowitz, Cyber Safety & Digital Parenting Thought Leader, Brand South Africa Play Your Part Ambassador and founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety