Although it’s far from the time of year for wearing t-shirts, you may have heard your child talk about the T-Shirt rule, well you have Zeeko to thank for that!  When we visit schools all over Ireland to talk to kids about staying safe online, one of the topics that gets the biggest reaction is when we ask how careful children are, about what the kind of content they share online. Kids can often understandably get caught up in the moment when they are sharing information and literally throw caution to the wind. They can also feel a sense of security that they are only sharing information with their friends but as we all know the online world is far larger than a circle of friends. It can be the case that what we share online cannot be easily deleted or permanently removed from the net. We have created what we like to term ‘The T-Shirt Rule’ to explain the long-term implications of posting something online. We encourage the kids we work with to ask themselves this question before they post something online: ‘Would I walk around for the rest of the day with what I am posting online printed on the front of a t-shirt?’ It is amazing to see the reaction that analogy can bring.

Inextricably linked to the t-shirt rule is the importance of teaching children of all ages to reflect, however briefly before they share information in an online environment. That could be while playing games online, or via messaging apps like WhatsApp or Viber or via social networking apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Talk with your child about the importance of only interacting with people that they know and have met in the ‘offline’ world. Remind them too of the importance of privacy when they are online and that they should never share information like their home address or date of birth particularly if they are gaming online. Also remind your child never to take a selfie with their school uniform on as that identifies the school. Lots of people don’t realize that when we are online, and we delete something, it is not always deleted it may look like it is but in fact it is not. It is important that you regularly talk to your child about being careful of what they share and of course how they treat others when they are online. This is of particular importance when it comes to the teenagers in your life. It’s part of their developmental stage that teenagers will experiment and will push the boundaries. It’s totally to be expected! Remind your teenager of the long- term implications of how they behave when they are online, potentially having an impact on things like their higher education and career prospects. It’s worth mentioning the t-shirt rule again here. Ask your child would they be happy to walk around with the image they have shared on the front of a t-shirt. It’s bound to make them reflect before they share online!

Teaching kids to take some time to reflect before sharing content online is a skill that will certainly stand to them in a world saturated with technology!