Should you let your kids loose on the Internet?

Alex wonders how much freedom to give children when it comes to social media

Photo by Paul Mayne via Flickr

Have you heard about the racist tweets that came from Hunger Games fans who were upset that black actors portrayed Rue and Thresh in the film?
It’s depressing and also reminds me of the Florida teens who recently posted ranty racist videos on YouTube.

There’s an underlying theme: I can’t imagine these people (kids) had any concept of the potential consequences of what they did. It may take a bit of thought to make and post a YouTube video, but it’s easy to toss off a tweet and it’s only going to get easier to share our thoughts as technology moves forward.
But the more I think about it, the more it strengthens my belief that parents have a responsibility to teach their kids well, not to be racist, duh, but also about how to navigate in a world where it’s so easy to broadcast the minutiae of our lives. But how do we best go about it?
It was a topic at a panel discussion I attended on the social family at Toronto Social Media Week. One of the participants was Royan Lee, a teacher in Ontario’s York Region District School Board. He’s a dad of three and a leading light in the movement to use digital technology (including cellphones) in the classroom.
One tactic Royan has employed at home is to open the digital world in an age-appropriate way. For instance, he and his wife encourage their nine-year-old daughter to blog so she can learn through guided trial and error — her blog is just shared with friends and family, and they have discussions about her posts — about what is appropriate to publish. But the key is she’s allowed to make mistakes in a safe way.
Since our digital footprints follow us seemingly forever, and will increasingly incorporate into our lives, it makes sense to me to at least let our kids dip their toes into these techy waters a bit, if not a lot.
I have the luxury of some time — my son is just 2.5 years old. But my husband and I need to figure out our plan of action.
How do you teach your kids about managing in this brave new world? Would you let your child have a blog?
Speaking of blogs, I love this family’s art blog. So cute!

Photo by Paul Mayne via Flickr

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