Our children cannot avoid the internet. They are no longer using it in the classroom only; it has become their classroom. They often hold more power to access more things in their hands than we could have imagined when we were their ages. It is imperative that we prepare our children for their digital citizenship. Digital citizenship is all about respect.
Respect for the Internet. The internet can be a valuable learning tool, but it can also be a dangerous place that exposes our children to information they are not ready to process or predators who take advantage of their naivety. Parental controls can create effective guards, especially when coupled with conversations about Internet pitfalls. Check out Google's Interland for a game-based learning experience about safely using the Internet.
Respect for self. Middle schoolers are bombarded with social pressures to fit in. Technology can amplify these pressures. It is important that we reaffirm positive self-image both in how we talk about ourselves and how we talk about and to our middle schoolers. Social media can be especially problematic when everyone else's posts focus on perfection or put-downs. The Child Mind Institute's article Social Media and Self-Doubt provides specific strategies to encourage self-respect in a digital world.
Respect for others. Cyberbullying is very real and has very real consequences. It is important that parents are aware not only of the signs that their child has been cyberbullied but also the signs that their child is the cyberbully. The Canadian Government provides an excellent resource for parents and teens about cyberbullying.
We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we are human and fallible. The digital world presents so many temptations to forget to love ourselves and those around us, but we don't have to give in to those temptations.