Posted by: Ed Brazee | March 7, 2013

What are the rules of your (digital) road?

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Courtesy of Sugeesh

Stay in your own lane. At stop signs, yield to those on your right. Don’t pass on a yellow line. Observe the speed limit.

When driving these rules of the road work well for most people. But what about rules that help guide us on digital roadways?

When with friends is it appropriate to talk or text with others? In class, if I am discrete about it, is it permissible to answer email or texts, watch videos, or respond to Facebook? Why can’t I post a picture of my friend with a beer in her hand at last Saturday’s party? And what is wrong with making comments about other people on my Facebook page?

There is no doubt that we need a “driver’s manual” to help us develop our own digital guidelines?  Technology now gives us so many ways to connect with others, to say anything we want to say, and to make available anything we write, say, and do to a global audience. While we have a huge opportunity to use technology a positive force for good, but it can also be frightening. And sometimes, wrong or inappropriate choices may get us into trouble if we aren’t careful.

The good news is that we have common sense to guide us. The bad news is that we have common sense to guide us.

In setting our digital rules of the road we must depend on the same values that guide us in every other aspect of life—responsibility, respect for others, caring, compassion, civility, safety, ethical behavior, consideration for others, and more.

Adults must be intentional about helping children and teens learn to use technology safely, responsibly, respectfully, and ethically? That is best done by being positive role models, by talking with them everyday about the issues they face, and by providing a supportive and safe environment to do all of this. Attempting to hide these influences by banning devices or the Internet does not teach them the skills they need for life in the 21st century. Quite literally, our children’s digital reputations depend on being savvy, safe, and responsible online as well as offline.

Here are three of my (very basic) digital guidelines that I’ve developed after significant trial and error.

• Pay attention to the people I’m with. Keep my phone OFF and in my pocket….no texting or calling when I am with others.

• Stay focused on the task at hand. No aimless web surfing when I need to finish my work.

• Don’t say anything online (or appear in any photos) that I would not want my mother to see.

What are the rules of your digital road?

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