How Can We Teach Kids About Self-Awareness in the Digital Age?

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So Sunday, July 24th is National Parent’s Day. Apparently, the fourth Sunday of July is Parents’ Day, a day established for honoring parents for all they do for their children and supporting them in their efforts to be responsible parents.

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there so I thought we might celebrate all you amazing parents for all you do and discuss a tough topic that we parents have to deal with today – kids in a digital world. If you are an older parent like me, you grew up in a fairly nondigital world.

Granted I grew up with arcade games and pinball machines outside of the home. In 3rd or 4th grade I was probably introduced to the TRS-80 computer at school and we had an Atari 2600 in the late ’70s and an Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid to late ’80s. I spent a lot of my change on those arcade games and jukeboxes back in the day, but having a 9-year old today and a 2-year old, digital is a whole new thing.

arcade games from the '80s
kid picking music at the jukebox in the '90s
1980s cassette walkman

I live a digital life as an adult, but how do I welcome my kids into this space safely when I spent most of my time riding bike, building forts in the woods, and jumping in creeks as a kid? As a teen I lived in rural America where I mostly spent my time listening to music (cassettes mostly) skateboarding in my basement, outside playing in the forest, riding 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, and snowmobiles. 

What do I know about how to be an engaged parent and allow my kids to grow up in the digital world but help them with as few road bumps and as little harm caused in the next 16 years or so? Well, this is what I am going to explore today.

Welcome my friends, to Parenting In the Digital Age…

How do we help our kids be safe and self-aware in this new digital world?

Is self-awareness part of the answer? 

I’d like to start with a definition to get on the same page. What is self-awareness? Self-Awareness is conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Research finds that people with self-awareness are happier and have better relationships. They also experience a sense of personal and social control.

Better Up shares these Benefits of Self-Awareness:

  • It gives us the power to influence outcomes
  • It helps us to become better decision-makers 
  • It gives us more self-confidence — so, as a result, we communicate with clarity and intention and set boundaries
  • It allows us to understand things from multiple perspectives
  • It frees us from our assumptions and biases
  • It helps us build better relationships
  • It gives us a greater ability to regulate our emotions
  • It decreases stress
  • It makes us happier

As our world becomes increasingly digitized, it’s more important than ever for kids to have a strong sense of self-awareness. With the rise of social media, the internet, and games built on leveraging online communities to connect, kids can now be open to a whole new level of scrutiny.

They must learn how to navigate these waters early on, this is where parents come in – hopefully. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of self-awareness and how to teach it to your kids. We will also provide tips for parents on how to talk to their children about staying safe online. I am doing research on this as I see how my own family is heading into rough waters and how ill equipped I am, or I feel, even as a digital native. I want to help my kids explore this new world, but I also want them to be safe and wise enough about odd situations that they come to me or mom for a discussion and/or support. Let me share a bit of my research with you. I hope it helps!

Here are some practical guidelines for teaching your kids about self-awareness in the digital age:

teach your kids about self-awareness in the digital age

1. Teach your kids the importance of self-awareness in the modern world.

Self-awareness is vital, especially in our contemporary society. With social media, our kids are now under more scrutiny than ever before.

  • They must understand how to manage their online presence, and that starts with having a strong sense of self-awareness.
  • This will be different for each kid and each stage they are in, but we should try to educate ourselves on these stages and explore and talk about them together.

2. Encourage them to be aware of their thoughts and feelings.

Help them understand that it’s okay to have negative thoughts and feelings, but it’s important to acknowledge them and work through them.

I’m a big proponent of emotional work obviously and I sincerely believe this is work we need to share with our kids at an early age so the understand their emotions and feelings and they are aware when things don’t feel right.

3. Teach them how to set boundaries.

Kids need to understand that they don’t have to share everything about themselves online. They should only share what they’re comfortable with and know that it’s okay to say no to friends or strangers who pressure them to share more than they want.

I think adults even have a hard time saying no and setting boundaries so we have our work cut out for us, but this is important work.

4. Help them understand the permanence of the internet.

Once something is online, it’s there forever. They need to be careful about what they share because it could haunt them later on. This is a hard one in my eyes as it’s hard to understand the longevity of forever as a kid. Their posts could be around a long time. 

5. Talk to them about cyberbullying.

Unfortunately, bullying is a reality on the internet. Help your kids understand what it is and how to deal with it if they ever encounter it. 

Again this is tough work. My 9-year old dealt with being physically bullied in school. It is hard as a parent to navigate this area in person but worse may be online as how do we build a safe space to get out of the environment? I mean physical bullying ends at the end of the day but does cyber-bullying pick-up where physical bullying stopped? Or what ways and forms does this take place? This is new and I know I am not looking forward to dealing with this. I will say knowing a bit about online security maybe we are in a better place than some parents, but still can I be sure we can keep this harm out of our kid’s lives? I doubt it.

It seems this will take more education and understanding to fully deal with this stuff. See the videos below for more ideas.

6. Provide resources for further learning.

If you want to learn more about the topic, there are plenty of great resources. Here are a few to get you started. These are some I found. Some are focused on kids and could be watched with them. Others are for parents to think about and explore how they address this stuff and tips to implement to manage their kid’s journey in the digital landscape we now live in. Others offer software to track and monitor their activities and help they stay away from harmful people, areas, and platforms.

I know this is overwhelming and also scary, but ignoring it and then seeing your kid head down a negative or harmful path is also very scary.

You can also sign yourself and your child up for digital workshops and online self-awareness classes. It’s important to have regular conversations with your kids about self-awareness and the internet. In my home we discuss meditation and mindfulness all the time because this is my passion but it is also helpful to planting positive seeds in our kids and for opening up dialogue and conversations about difficult topics.

Rocket Kids: What is Self-Awareness + 5 Reasons It's Important

It's Elementary SEL: Self-Awareness For Kids

Dr. Steve Silvestro: Teaching Internet Safety to Kids & Teens

Bark: What Parents Need to Know About Online Safety

Protect Children CA: What Can Parents do to Help Their Kids Stay Safe Online?

Telegraph Media Group: Online safety tips for parents

Kids In The House: Advice For Teaching Kids About Online Predators - Lori Getz, MA

Marple: How Parents Can Protect Their Children Online

I know that was a whole lot of information and a lot of videos. Sorry if this caused overwhelm, but my goal was to provide different videos/topics for parents at different stages of this journey and a resource to potentially come back to as we transitions to different stages.

Now let’s dig into how to get started on this journey in your family.

Here are some tips for how to approach the topic:

two girls hanging out with a smartphone

1. Be open and honest with Your Kids.

Talk to them about your own experiences with self-awareness and the internet. It will help them feel more comfortable talking to you about their own experiences.

2. Encourage them to ask questions.

Let them know that you’re open to talking about any concerns they have. This is so important. It is not easy, but if your kids do not feel comfortable to discuss difficult topics with you, they will not come to you until things could be pretty bad instead of hopefully catching things early on.

3. Listen to their concerns.

Show them you’re interested in what they have to say and that you’re there to support them. this takes some parent self-awareness and being present to build those strong relationships and understanding how they act in different situations.

4. Give them space to share.

Sometimes kids need a safe space to vent their thoughts and feelings. Let them know that you’re there for them, no matter what.

Here are some essential tips for online safety:

how to keep your kids safe online

1. Not Everything Online is Accurate or Factual

Help them understand that not everything on the internet is true. There are a lot of fake news stories and scams out there, so it’s important to teach your kids how to spot them. Beyond this, things change over time but sometimes content hasn’t been updated.

Sometimes this is intentionally harmful but other times it is just neglect or lack of updates. As my kid is exploring technology and how to videos related to tech he doesn’t understand that older versions of software might not be available or updates to software removes tools the software once had. So we have to discuss why this is.

As an adult you also know there is “fake news” out there or spam that tries to trick us and it may seem easy for us to understand it isn’t wise to send money to a prince in order to get our cut of $10 million dollars, but do kids get it? How can we help them understand this stuff and avoid it? It takes work and being connected to what they are doing online. Talking about this stuff could help.

2. Teach them about cyberbullying.

Bullying is a reality of the internet. Help your kids understand what it is and how to deal with it if they ever encounter it. Now in order to teach your kids you yourself need to be educated on the topic. Again maybe I should share a definition and a few ideas to get you started if you are new to the topic.

What is cyberbullying? (pulled from UNICEF website)

Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted. Examples include:

  • spreading lies about or posting embarrassing photos or videos of someone on social media
  • sending hurtful, abusive or threatening messages, images or videos via messaging platforms
  • impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf or through fake accounts.

Another resource from the National Bullying Prevention Center shares different thoughts and a good overview helping us understand cyberbullying a bit with a few different videos.

KidsHealth also shares some important wisdom This info was pulled from their website.This page offers some great tips on how to deal with cyberbullying if your kid is getting bullied. Here are some signs we should know as parents…<

What Are the Signs of Cyberbullying?
Many kids and teens who are cyberbullied don’t want to tell a teacher, parent, or trusted adults, often because they feel ashamed or fear that their devices will be taken away at home.

Signs of cyberbullying vary, but may include:

  • being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
  • spending more time than usual in their room
  • withdrawal from or lack of interest in family members, friends, and activities
  • avoiding school or group gatherings
  • slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
  • suddenly wanting to stop using the computer or device
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting a message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or phone activities

3. Encourage them to be aware of their online presence.

Help them understand that anything they post online is there forever, and it can have real-life consequences. I recently ran into someone dealing with this as they move into their career and want to keep their personal life private but also be professional for business and their career. This is important for us to talk about with our kids and try to help them not do future harm to their career or life based on silly stuff they did along time ago.

4. Talk to them about stranger danger.

Just because someone is anonymous doesn’t mean they’re safe. Teach your kids how to spot red flags and stay safe when talking to strangers online.

Here is some more info on things to think about related to online stranger danger.

The internet is a great resource, but it’s important to teach your kid self-awareness and online safety. By having regular conversations with them and providing resources for further learning, you can help them navigate the digital world safely and confidently.

Self-awareness is an important life skill, and it’s essential in the digital age. Kids need to be aware of their thoughts and feelings, set boundaries and understand the permanence of the internet.

They also need to know how to identify cyberbullying and stay safe when talking to strangers online. As a parent, you can help your child by having regular conversations with them about self-awareness and online safety.

You can also provide resources for further learning, such as books, articles, and online classes. I know this is a tough topic, but we can create a safe space and experience for our kids by staying deeply connected and talking with them regularly and being open to talk about difficult topics. Keep brushing up on this stuff and you’ll do a great job! Thanks for reading as I am doing my own learning in this space.

Want to try adding mindfulness to your self-care or build your own self-awareness? Click below to get details about my main mindfulness course.

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