Digital Citizen Pledge

Discussing positive online behavior with children is important. Sharing your expectations and online safety best practices are critical for their well-being and protection, especially when they begin to independently use the internet or have their first cell phone.

I recently put together a new digital citizenship pledge for a local organization that is a good tool for parents or schools — a conversation starter and reminder of points to address.

Digital Citizen Pledge

I, ______________________________, understand the expectations of my online actions and promise to:

  • Only connect with people I know in real life.
  • Communicate kindly.
  • Respect different opinions and feelings.
  • Keep personal information private.
  • Only post or share appropriate photos.
  • Not share my login information.
  • Inform an adult of content that is threatening or mean.
  • Choose suitable online profile names.
  • Use respectful language.
  • Avoid conversations that are unkind or disrespectful.
  • Be an upstander and stand up to cyberbullying.
  • Notify an adult if I feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
  • Check with my parents before installing software or apps.

Signature and Date

It’s important to discuss the pledge and expectations, fostering an open conversation and opportunity to ask questions, as well as discussing possible ramifications for breaking the pledge.


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Parents: What To Do When Your Child Engages In Cyberbullying

If you suspect or learn your child is engaging in cyberbullying:

  • Understand your child could be engaging in harmful behavior that may be against school policy and/or the law.
  • Thoroughly review the incidents.
  • Speak with your child, and explain the harmful impact of cyberbullying. It’s important to discuss the negative impact cyberbullying has online and in real life.
  • Listen to your child’s explanations, discuss expectations, and share potential ramifications if the cyberbullying does not stop.
  • Explain how using the internet leaves a trail, and people engaging in cyberbullying may face ramifications.
  • Consider installing a cyberbullying prevention app. Software to detect and stop cyberbullying is available, and may be helpful in addressing challenges. It can provide youth with an opportunity to pause, reconsider harmful posts, and learn to make better choices.
  • Regardless of which child started, make sure your child understands not to engage or retaliate.

If your child’s negative online behavior continues or escalates, consider seeking professional help and/or programs in impulse management, social media addiction, gaming addiction, etc., as necessary.

It also is essential to remember your child is a child who may make mistakes and needs direction. Your response should depend on the severity of the incident(s) and focus on lessons learned, expectations, and better behavior going forward.

If your child posted harmful or defamatory content, it should be removed.

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Breathe Before You Post

Breathe Before You Post To Avoid Cyber Harassment By Lisa-Michelle KucharzAt some point in your life, you probably witnessed someone who became anxious or angry being asked to breathe deeply to calm himself or slow down a response, whether it was an angry coworker who wanted to share a heated rant in a meeting or an infuriated athlete who missed a key play.

A recent study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California demonstrated that taking a deep breath informs the body to relax. “You can calm your breathing and also calm your mind,” shared Dr. Mark Krasnow, professor of biochemistry at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

We can apply this research to help people calm their minds before they engage in negative online communication that may have ramifications and cause regret. The key to applying breath as an intervention to alter behavior is to recognize potential pitfalls. Once aware of triggers, a person can acknowledge challenges in real-time and immediately employ deep, controlled breathing to inform his mind to relax.

According to Esther Sternberg, physician and researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, slow, deep breathing calms us down. “When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor. When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake.”

Like many people, I’ve encouraged youth and adults to “think before they post” but, even though it’s sound advice, it may not be enough in some situations. Thinking alone may not be what we need to distance ourselves from a heat-of-the-moment online disaster. Taking a few slow, deep breaths can calm our minds and give us a chance to address challenges with clarity and serenity. Once calm, we can better think about what to post — or whether or not to post at all.

But, not all breaths are created equal. To fully benefit from the calming effects of breathing, your breath needs to be controlled, slow, and deep. Sit or stand comfortably, and place your hands at your sides, on your thighs, or in a comfortable position. As you slowly inhale, fill the lower portion of your abdomen, then the middle, and then your chest. After a brief pause, slowly exhale the entire breath. Some people suggest making a long shhhhh sound on the exhale for further focus.

After taking a moment to breathe deeply, you should be able to approach online communication calmly and with a level-head. If taking a few breaths weren’t enough, take a few more.

Deep breathing is a great intervention to prevent reacting poorly and engaging in online abuse or cyberbullying, because everyone can learn how to do it, and it’s absolutely free.

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