By Ross Ellis, founder and CEO, STOMP Out Bullying

Kids and teens live a 24/7 digital life. While it’s great for learning, entertainment and communicating with friends, your kids are on every popular social media site.

When you give them the keys to the car you expect them to be responsible drivers. When you give kids and teens a computer, tablet, iPhone or Droid, digital responsibility is a must!

Being as plugged in as they are, they face many challenges. Depending on their age, up to 43% of kids are harassed online. And according to Nielsen, the average teenager now sends 3,339 texts per month.

Digital drama affects youths greatly and it’s up to parents to help them understand these challenges and what to do about them. Educate them in knowing that once something is on the Internet, it stays there forever! EVERYTHING leaves a digital footprint.

Kids and teens can and will post anything. Raising responsible digital citizens begins with every parent, ensuring that their children behave responsibly with each keystroke or tap of the screen.

Talk to your children about posting online. Discuss being good “digital friends” by respecting personal information of friends, family and acquaintances and not sharing anything about others that is potentially embarrassing or hurtful.

Encourage them to be digital leaders by ensuring that they use safe and secure practices.

Help to DELETE DIGITAL DRAMA. Empower your children. They may deal with digital situations such as bullying, unwanted contacts or hurtful comments. Help them to develop responsible digital strategies. By not responding to negative posts, blocking a person or reporting bad online behavior can diffuse many hurtful and uncomfortable situations. Agree to work together if these steps fail.

Most social media sites require your child to be 13 years of age. Ensure that younger children do not have social media accounts.

Teach them to:
• Think before they post
• To be kind. If they have nothing nice to say online, they should say nothing at all.
• Nothing is private! They should assume that EVERYTHING they do online is copied, pasted and/or shared. If they want privacy, they should respect other’s privacy.
• Use privacy settings
• Do not steal the work of others. Credit them.

As parents it is imperative that you are not only digitally and Web savvy, but that you also know what sites your children visit, what they share and download and ensure that they engage in positive digital behavior.