Most of us would agree it’s important to be good citizens IRL (text speak for “in real life”). It’s important to be responsible, safe and productive members of society.

But often, our connected devices lure us into believing that, somehow, the internet isn’t real life. But it is. We’re all real people and being online takes up a surprising amount of our real lives. We may need a reminder of the skills we may have forgotten or never had the chance to learn.

It’s a good opportunity to teach these skills to our kids, too.

There are many ways to be good digital citizens. Here are three easy ways you and your family can start.

Think critically: Can you tell the difference between real news stories and fake ones? According to a study by Common Sense Media, 56% of kids can’t. There’s so much contradictory info out there, where do you start? Try jump-starting your critical thinking skills with a few key questions:

  • What website is this on, and what is its goal? If the site is trying to sell you something or is funded by advertisers who want more people to see its ads, there’s a higher chance stories will be hyped up to get more traffic. Look for websites that end in .org, .edu or .gov for more reliable information.
  • Who wrote this and what are his or her qualifications? Look for info about the author and find out if he or she has research, experience or education to back any claims.
  • Are other trustworthy sources saying the same thing? There’s a good reason teachers always made you get three sources when you wrote a paper. It’s a better chance the info is true if several good sources say the same thing.

Consider safety: We all know about important ways to stay safe online, like using strong passwords and looking out for scams. But when it comes to digital citizenship, we have to think about emotional safety, too.

Talk to your kids about the need for balance between screen time and the other activities and people in their lives.

Help them understand what healthy relationships look like and that they are defined by more than the number of people who liked their most recent social media post.

Use empathy: The internet can be a pretty cruel place. According to a recent webinar from Casel and Common Sense Education, 40% of kids have been involved in a cyberbullying incident, and 45% of kids have seen hate speech online.

It’s important to protect yourself and your family from the effects of those cruelties. But it is equally important to be sure we aren’t contributing to them.

As digital citizens, we need to interact in digital spaces with respect, compassion and empathy.

Practice showing kindness with your family and talk about how those attitudes should be extended to all spaces — digital or in-person.

Emily Schoenfelder serves as a University of Illinois 4-H Youth Development Educator in Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties.