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Parents and guardians play vital role in helping children develop an understanding of digital citizenship — the social, emotional and practical skills needed to successfully navigate the digital world.

My child has shared inappropriate images 

If your child has shared an intimate image of someone else without their permission, follow the below steps and click here to see your state's sexting law. 

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Try to get the full story so you can understand what happened.

This will allow you to help guide your child in the right direction.

Explain why distributing anyone's private information is wrong.

Let them know that the ramifications can be severe, but that you are here for them

Try to stop the image from being shared any further.

Explain to your child that it is imperative for you to know who it was sent to

Help your child repair any harm.

Let your child know that you are there for them and you are going to get through it together.

It is never too early to teach your children good digital habits -- as your child gets older, it is useful to keep reminding them of these basic digital intelligence principles: respect, empathy, critical thinking, responsible behavior, and resilience. You can use these principles to empathize with your child when things go wrong in their digital world.

On this page:


How to teach digital citizenship


Promote respectful communication 

  • Encourage your child to display the same good manners and behavior online as they would use offline -- help them to understand that others may have different cultures, backgrounds or points of view. If it is not OK to say or do something face to face, it is not OK online. 

  • Remind them to avoid responding to negative messages (any message that makes them upset or uncomfortable) and to tell you or another trusted adult if they receive them. Tell them it is OK to report or block others who are not being nice.  

  • Remind them that you are proud of them for their good behavior online. For example, ‘I know what a kind and respectful person you are, and it makes me so proud to see you acting the same way when you're online. You are such a great friend — I can see how much everyone looks up to you at school.’ This will encourage them to continue acting this way.

Encourage empathy 

  • Help your child imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. This way, they can relate to differing opinions and understand what might make people behave in different ways. 

  • For example, you might say something like: ‘I noticed that Caroline seemed a bit sad when she came over yesterday. Have you noticed anything? What do you think is wrong? Would that make you sad? What can we do to help?’ 

Teach them to question 

  • Encourage your child to think critically about what they see online. Teach them to ask questions so they can identify content that may be misleading. 

  • Talk to them about ‘fake news’ or false information that is designed to look like a trustworthy news report, and discuss how quickly it can spread on social media. Teach them to fact check news sources and do their own independent searches on issues so they can see the variety of opinions on a particular issue and make up their own mind. 

  • Remind them to be careful when making new friends online as people may not be who they say they are. We're seeing an increased amount of ‘Finstas’ (fake Instagram accounts) and other impersonation accounts, so it is always important to question whether what they are seeing online from their friends is real or not. If it seems out of character, it could be from a fake account. 

  • Alert your child to the dangers of meeting someone in person that they have been talking to online. Advise them to never meet an online friend unless a trusted adult is with them and it is during the day in a public space. 

Encourage safe and responsible behavior 

  • Work on achieving a healthy balance in your child’s online and offline activities. When you first speak with your child about Internet usage, set boundaries and have rules your child must follow. Find out how in time online.  

  • Make your child aware that posting personal information can threaten their "real-world" safety, as well as their family's safety.   

  • Explain that they should be suspicious of unsolicited messages and emails, and avoid clicking on pop-up ads on websites. Some pop-ups that seem safe can lead to inappropriate sites or ask for personal/financial information.

  • Help them configure the strongest privacy settings on all the social media apps and sites they use. It is best that only their friends can view their information, tag them in photos or share posts. Have them regularly check their settings as updates can sometimes default them.

  • Ensure your child uses strong passwords on devices and accounts (a passphrase tends to be the strongest), and explain the importance of not sharing passwords, even with friends.

Help them build resilience 

  • If your child experiences a negative experience online, stay calm. Remember that the choices they make as they navigate difficult situations can help them learn.

  • Remind your child that they don't have to accept every friend request they receive. 

  • Make sure they know how to block and report users or pages on the sites they use. 

  • If they have a negative online experience, find out how they are feeling about it and offer support. It is normal for them to not want to talk about their experience at first, but make sure they know that you are there for them.

    • For example, you might say: ‘What that person has done is not OK. They must be feeling pretty bad about themselves to treat you like this. How are you feeling? Let's block them to stop their messages coming through.’ 

  • Build your child’s confidence and encourage positive ways of thinking — looking on the bright side, thinking rationally through a negative situation, and understanding that difficult times are a part of life but there is help and support available. 

I am worried my child might be bullying others.

If your child is treating others badly, is dismissive of their feelings, or targeting/intentionally excluding a particular child or group, they could be seen as a bully. If they are online, there is a chance they may be bullying that person/group there, as well. Finding out your child is bullying others can be very painful, but with your guidance and positive guidance, you can help them change. Click through the slideshow below for tips on how to handle this situation.

How to teach digital citizenship

Help them relate

Talk to your child, in a way they can relate to, about how it feels to be left out or teased. Use examples. Build empathy — help them understwhat it might feel like to be the other person. 

My child is cyberbullying
My child has shared...
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