The world we live in is awash in technology. In the last 30 years, we’ve gone from floppy disks and playing Oregon Trail to smartphones and Fortnight. As adults who remember a time before technology played the role it does today, we often feel overwhelmed by the task of helping our students navigate this new frontier. For kids, it is tempting to see the online world as if it were some fantasy land, but it is very much the real world what kids do and say online matters. The choices students make in their teen years involving technology will have a profound effect on their lives both today and for years to come. It can also have a drastic impact on those around them. When it comes to technology, the stakes are high, so we need to be teaching students about digital citizenship. Most schools have some form of online safety or anti-cyberbullying program, but digital citizenship is more than that, and students need more than an assembly or two or a lesson here or there. They require ongoing conversations and practice applying the skills they are learning. So, consider this your crash course in digital citizenship: what is it, what do students need to learn to be good digital citizens, and how can you best teach them this skillset?
Digital Citizenship encompasses many areas, including:
This is one area that schools usually get right. Still, it’s an ever-evolving area, and unfortunately, those who seek to harm children are continually switching tactics. Teach students the following:
This one is simple, but also an ongoing problem. To be a good digital citizen, follow The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Teach students to ask themselves:
Browse Facebook for a few minutes and it won’t take long until you see headlines like these: Woman Gives Birth to 17 Babies at Once or Ancient Mayan Scultpure of Batman Found or Hazmat Suits Needed When Installing 5G Towers.
The internet is full of half-truths and misinformation, ranging from harmless misinformation to full-fledged scams. Students must learn to discern the true from the false to be accurately informed and to protect themselves. Teachers from all disciplines teach critical thinking skills to their students. Living in a digital world commands that students have, and can apply these skills. Give students plenty of opportunities to practice their critical thinking skills by applying them to what they see online. Teach students to ask themselves the following questions:
While many of these questions would be difficult for young children to answer, you can build the foundation of these critical thinking skills by teaching fact and opinion, author’s purpose, fiction, and nonfiction, etc.
Teach students to be mindful about their use of technology:
Tech can be very addictive, especially for teens whose brains are ripe for addiction. Teach students strategies to manage their tech use so that it is a help not a hindrance in the classroom. Practical strategies include:
Reinforce at Home:
Digital Citizenship becomes integrated into a student’s set of behaviors best when there is a partnership between home and school. Educate parents on the benefits of making their kids good digital citizens.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.