I chose ENTER at your own risk as my mantra. When we press ENTER, there’s no turning back. We need to be conscientious about what we share in order to protect ourselves and others. following is my essay about the Elements of Digital Citizenship.
Digital technology is all around us. Our use of social media, online games, mobile devices, cloud computing and software applications make us digital citizens in a world filled with others like us. Technology allows us to communicate with people around the globe, collaborate with great minds we’ll never meet, and contribute to the vast collection of resources available to the rest of the world on the Internet. It empowers us. And with great power comes great responsibility.
Our responsibilities as digital citizens are many. The tools we use and the way we use them can say a lot about who we are, and can do a lot to help or hurt others. We owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to understand the affect our use of digital technology has on everyone. We need to be conscientious users of digital tools in order to make a better digital world.
Most of us became digital citizens without understanding the power of the Internet and the dangers that exist with improper use. Many of us take advantage of the tools and resources provided online, without considering the consequences of doing so. If we were to compare the online world with the physical world in which we live, we would understand that in order to be good citizens, many of the same rules should apply. But with no set standards or rules regarding how we use the Internet or digital tools, and with net neutrality providing us the freedom to do what we want when we want to online, it’s up to us as individuals to do the right thing. That’s why schools across the U.S. are doing what they can to prepare today’s students for the digital world, so that they can be the best digital citizens they can be.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has created National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) which include standards for guiding the educational use of digital tools in American schools, as they apply to students, teachers and administrators in schools. In 1998, ISTE standards were focused on teaching students how to use technology. (ISTE, 2017). Today, they focus on an ever-changing digital technology as it relates to learning, and address what Mike Ribble has established to be three basic social, ethical and human issues: (1) Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology. (2) Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software. (3) Students develop positive attitudes toward technology applications that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity (Ribble, 2015).
Ribble has established nine general areas of behavior which make up good digital citizenship, including etiquette, communication, education, access, commerce, responsibility, rights, safety and security (Ribble & Bailey, 2014). Depending on our use of the Internet (personal or professional), some areas may be more applicable to us. But it’s important to recognize that all of these areas contribute to our effectiveness as good digital citizens.
Etiquette is a basic expectation in any community. Saying please and thank you are typical for any citizen with good etiquette, and the interruption of a conversation is generally seen as impolite and even rude by many of us in the physical world. We learned as children that we need to be polite and treat others with respect. In the digital world, those same rules apply. Our use of digital devices should not change the way we have been taught to treat others. Answering our phones in the middle of a face-to-face conversation does not follow the rules of etiquette; nor does allowing our devices to distract us from spending time with our family and friends.
Communication takes place in a variety of forms in a digital world. Phone conversations are considered traditional forms of communication, even if they are conducted wirelessly and via satellite. But email and instant messaging have greatly changed not only how we communicate, but what we communicate. According to a 2016 statistic, U.S. cell phone users were spending 5 hours a day on their devices, a third of which (33%) was spent on social media and messaging apps (Perez, 2017). The language that is used in email and IM is often shorthand and abbreviated, almost like a code to many parents. Text messages are also at risk for miscommunication, since what is sent in text can often be misinterpreted. (The use of all caps in any texted message is perceived as aggressive and compared to yelling). Recognizing when a form of communication is most appropriate, and communicating respectfully is the role of a good digital citizen.
Education of today’s youth often includes the use of digital tools, which are used not only to store, retrieve and create information, but to provide authentic global learning experiences for students. In a digital world, using the cloud-based storage allows us to share and collaborate with one another. Recognizing credible resources and participating in online forums in a responsible and scholarly way are characteristics of a good digital citizen.
Access to the Internet is not available to everyone. According to 2016 statistics, 12% of U.S. adults are smartphone users, but do not subscribe to broadband services (Rainie & Perrin, 2017). Research indicates that this group is more likely to be younger, lower-income, less educated, or black or Hispanic (Horrigan, 2015). As digital citizens, we need to explore ways in which to provide Internet access to all members of our communities so that we are not excluding potential users based on their financial, demographic or physical situations. The opportunities provided by digital technology should be available to all of us.
Commerce is gaining power in the digital world. In December, 2016, 79% of Americans reported making purchases online, spending a combined $350 million, about 10% of all retail purchases. (Smith & Anderson, 2016). Social media has grown to become a marketing tool for many companies, influencing online and offline purchases made by consumers. In a 2016 U.S. study by UPS, 34% of online shoppers reported that their purchases were influenced by social media (UPS, 2016). That same study reported that 23% of online shoppers made their purchases on social media sites. It’s important for consumers to recognize appropriate use of online purchasing in order to limit the risks of identity or financial theft. We should search for reviews of an unfamiliar site before submitting personal information or making purchases. And it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure that the web address is preceded by the letters “https” which indicates that the site is secure.
Responsibility to the owners of resources available on the Internet is something every digital citizen needs to consider. Music, videos, documents and images shared on the Internet are not free for the taking. Despite this, a 2017 survey found that 53% of Internet users between the ages of 16 and 24, downloaded music illegally within the six months previous to taking the survey. 45% of users between the ages of 25 and 34 were guilty of doing the same (“Global copyright infringing music access by age 2017 | Statistic”, 2017). While Copyright laws protect the creators of posted media, the Internet makes it easy for users to share and download those materials illegally. As digital citizens, we need to educate ourselves and others about our responsibility to one another, and respect the owners of posted materials.
Rights to the resources we share need to be observed by others. As digital citizens on the Internet, we have the right to post what we want. But it’s important to protect ourselves and our rights by posting things appropriately. When our creative works are made available to others, we should make it clear how they are intended to be used. Creating a license on a site like creativecommons.org, can help others to understand how we want to be credited, while allowing them to use, modify or share our work in ways that we’ve authorized.
Safety risks exist in many forms online. In 2016, it was reported that 33.8% of students between 12 and 17 had been victimized by cyber bullying at some time (Cyber bullying Research Center, 2016). Cyber bullying is a form of online harassment that takes place through social media, email, private message, chat, or through sites and forums designed to target an individual. It can hurt people mentally, emotionally, and physically. Interestingly, people of any age can become targets of cyber bullying, which can take place at any time of any day from anywhere.
As if the potential for online harassment isn’t concern enough, the Internet provides pornographers and pedophiles with easy access to what they’re looking for. According to the Supreme Court, sex offenders can’t be banned from social media, where they can easily conceal their identity and go wherever they want online. Parent controls and blocking websites aren’t enough to protect children from these types of online users. Children need clear rules and parental supervision when using the Internet. At the same time, parents should be very conscientious about the photos and information they share about their children.
Security is perhaps one of the most important topics for any digital citizen to understand. In an educational setting, students are typically protected by firewalls, monitored online activity, and district approved websites. But using devices in our personal and professional lives exposes us to risks that can greatly affect us and our futures. By educating ourselves about the risks involved, we can protect ourselves from potentially harm.
As digital citizens, we play a critical role in our own security. Our first line of defense is the passwords with which we sign into our devices. Passwords can greatly influence how well our private information and files on our devices are protected. Our devices should be accessible only through a private password and/or screen-lock code. While many of us create simple passwords or codes that we can easily remember, we should realize that they don’t offer much protection because they are often just as easy to figure out. In 2016, Verizon reported that 63% of confirmed data breaches are a result of weak or shared passwords (Verizon, 2016). 25% of us create passwords that are easy for us to remember, and 39% of us use the same password for multiple accounts (Omstead & Smith, 2017). This means that anyone who knows us well enough to figure out our passwords will have access to every account with which they are associated.
Even if we’re following recommendations to create complex passwords, we face the danger of someone accessing the data on our devices in other ways. The loss or theft of a cell phone that is not locked can give the wrong person all the access they need to steal what they want, including our banking information, our contact information, or even access to our online shopping apps, where they could easily take advantage of any credit cards stored in our accounts. Phishing messages are another way that our data can get into the wrong hands. Close to 30% of phishing messages were opened in 2015, which was an increase of 7% from 2014 (Verizon, 2016). These messages often look like they come from accounts we trust, like PayPal, or our banks, and they can include instructions like “Click here to reset your password”. Verizon reported that 12% of the targets of these emails actually click on the links, which can introduce malicious software to a system, and provide access to private information to the senders (Verizon, 2016). Password should be taken seriously, and never shared. Login information should be managed by the user, and no one else.
Much of our private and personal information may be given away unintentionally through our online activity. Public Wi-Fi can be found in airports, coffee shops, restaurants and many establishments where we rarely hesitate to get connected. They are convenient, but the can also be unsecure, exposing our private information to cybercriminals. To protect our information, it’s best to use our own personal network connections, and to avoid conducting personal business, like banking or shopping on a public network. When we do connect to public Wi-Fi, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s a legitimate connection by talking to an employee or staff member of the establishment. It’s easy for cybercriminals to create networks that we think are legitimate, for the purpose of stealing our information.
is estimated that about 70% of all Americans use social media to connect with one another (“Social Media Fact Sheet, 2017). We post images, share status updates, promote events, engage in news, and entertain ourselves through tools offered through social media accounts. Facebook is America’s most popular social media platform, with an estimated 68% of American adults being users of the online application (“Social Media Fact Sheet, 2017). According to Facebook, 2.01 billion Facebook accounts are used each month (Facebook, 2017). In 2012, CNN reported that 83 million of the profile pages Facebook were fake (Kelly, 2012). This should be enough to convince us that what we share with friends may also be seen by users with bad intentions. We need to be cautious when connecting with others, and especially with what we share online. Status updates that inform others of our locations, and when we’re out of traveling can be perceived as invitation for intruders and burglars who can access our contact information. Events that we create, or share our interest in can serve as a warning that we won’t be home. News sources, which are often not reliable, can invite trouble. We feel a sense of security when our friends share links, but when we click on some of them, they can infect us with spyware apps that auto-post the source on our behalf. Friends who see the auto-post will often fall victim to the same trick. One popular form of entertainment on Facebook involves questionnaires that tell us about our personalities. Our friends participate, and share their results, and we want to, too. But when we take these quizzes, how many of us realize that we’re giving the quiz developers access to our profiles? The information these strangers learn about us can be used to target us in future emails and potential scams.
Gaming is another area that we need to think of as a potential security risk. While adults may not think of gaming as a big concern, 72% of teens play video games on their phones, or online at home (Lenhart, 2017). 16% of Internet users who have been harassed online say that the harassment occurred while playing an online game (Duggan, 2014). As gamers share information with other players (often strangers) online, what they share may be used against them. It is also a possibility that the other participants in these games are not children, and can expose players to bad things.
Most of us don’t think about how much of our information is available to the public. A visit to a people searching site such as Spokeo.com can be an eye-opening experience. By typing in someone’s name, anyone can get access to his or her age, aliases, family members, and places they’ve lived, all for free. The fact that the current location of the individual is shown on a satellite map means that anyone can zoom in to view the home and surrounding property of the individual. Consider the fact that sex offenders can’t legally be banned from social media. It’s a scary thought if you realize that they can find who they’re looking for so easily. Sites such as Spokeo pull information from other online sites, gathering it from phone books, marketing surveys, real estate listings, social networking, and other public sources, offering a majority of the information for free. Any user who is concerned enough with these sites to check the privacy information will be happy to see that they can opt out of being searchable on the site. But the information is out there, and other sites can access it just as easily. What we share about ourselves can’t be unshared.
In today’s world, technology cannot be avoided. Everything we do – banking, shopping, communicating with our friends, or even visiting a doctor’s office – involves the sharing of our information online in some way. We can’t control everything. But we can educate ourselves on privacy policies of the people with whom we do business. We can limit the information we make available by avoiding unnecessary surveys and applications. And most importantly we can think before we submit anything online. Once we hit ENTER, we can’t get that information back.
We are all digital citizens, whether we like it or not. We have a responsibility to ourselves and those around us to be respectful, responsible and safe in our use of the Internet.
Duggan, M. (2014). Online Harassment. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 4 October 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/
Facebook. (2017). Facebook Reports Second Quarter 2017 Results. Retrieved from https://investor.fb.com/investor-news/press-release-details/2017/Facebook-Reports-Second-Quarter-2017-Results/default.aspx
Global copyright infringing music access by age 2017 | Statistic. (2017). Statista. Retrieved 1 October 2017, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/609114/music-copyright-infringement-by-age/
Horrigan, J. (2015). The numbers behind the broadband ‘homework gap’. Pew Research Center. Retrieved 30 September 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/20/the-numbers-behind-the-broadband-homework-gap/
Kelly, H. (2017). 83 million Facebook accounts are fakes and dupes – CNN. CNN. Retrieved 30 October 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/02/tech/social-media/facebook-fake-accounts/index.html
Lenhart, A. (2015). Mobile Access Shifts Social Media Use and Other Online Activities. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 4 October 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/mobile-access-shifts-social-media-use-and-other-online-activities/
Olmstead, K., & Smith, A. (2017). Americans and Cybersecurity. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 1 October 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/01/26/americans-and-cybersecurity/
Perez, S. (2017). U.S. consumers now spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices. TechCrunch. Retrieved 1 October 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/u-s-consumers-now-spend-5-hours-per-day-on-mobile-devices/
Rainie, L., & Perrin, A. (2017). 10 facts about smartphones as the iPhone turns 10. Pew Research Center. Retrieved 30 September 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/28/10-facts-about-smartphones/
Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society of Technology in Education
Ribble, M., & Bailey, G. (2014). Digital citizenship: Focus questions for Implementation. DigitialCitizenship.net. Retrieved 1 October 2017, from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/uploads/2ndLL.pdf
Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2016). 1. Online shopping and purchasing preferences. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 30 September 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/19/online-shopping-and-purchasing-preferences/
Social Media Fact Sheet. (2017). Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 1 October 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/
UPS. (2016). UPS pulse of the online shopper (p. 43). United Parcel Service of America. Retrieved from https://solvers.ups.com/assets/2016_UPS_Pulse_of_the_Online_Shopper.pdf
Verizon. (2016) (p. 3). Retrieved from http://www.verizonenterprise.com/resources/reports/rp_dbir-2016-executive-summary_xg_en.pdf
As citizens in a digital world, we must deal with a number of issues that did not exist thirty years ago. Some of these issues include the public sharing of our personal information, identity theft, and unhealthy online behaviors such as gaming, social media and online shopping addictions. But one of the issues we struggle with today that’s not new is that of bullying.
Bullying is not a 21st century problem. It’s one that has existed forever. Very few of us can say that we were never bullied as young children. Whether we had our hair pulled by the student sitting behind us, became victims of the “I’m not touching you” game played by our siblings or classmates, or were chased on a playground repeatedly by a kid who just wouldn’t leave us alone, we have all been treated in ways that made us feel like targets for teasing, name-calling, and/or cruelty. The bullies we dealt with as children are the people who inspired the “Sticks and Stones” rhyme that our parents told us repeatedly as we were growing up. We were advised to ignore the things bullies said to us, and typically it worked.
Bullying continues in the 21st century, but digital technology has made it a much bigger issue. Children continue to be teased and bothered by their siblings and peers, but it doesn’t stop there. As they grow up they face the risk of being “cyberbullied” by digital users, often people they may not even know. Cyberbullying is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as bullying that takes place using electronic technology (“What is Cyberbullying | StopBullying.gov“, 2017). Electronic technology includes such things as cell phones, computers, laptops, tablets, and the Internet. Cyberbullies have much more opportunity to target their victims in a world where people are connected 24/7, so cyberbullying can happen anytime, anywhere, and the victim doesn’t even need to be present.
Cyberbullying can be a much more serious issue than traditional bullying for a number of reasons. First, cyberbullies can be anyone, at any age. Their identities are easy to disguise because the bullying doesn’t take place face-to-face. They could be complete strangers disguised as “friends” or vice versa. This is called masquerading, and it is a common form of cyberbullying on social media and other online sites. Additionally, the victims can be anyone. People are much quicker to judge and willing to bully when they don’t have to do it face-to-face. Cyberbullying can involve anyone, and everyone, which makes it an issue for all of us.
Secondly, the things that bullies say and do to their victims online can be shared with anyone, making the experience public. Publicly posted comments can lead to the participation of others in the cyberbullying of the victim. It can result in legal discipline for the perpetrator(s), depending on the information they share, and the results of their cyberbullying attacks.
Thirdly, the information that’s posted online cannot be taken back. Once it is posted and shared with the world, it is there forever and can be used to perpetually haunt or harass the victims. The cyberbullying experience can take on a life of its own, beyond the original cyberbully, destroying the lives of victims, and possible “humiliating them to death” (TED, 2015).
Cyberbullying can take on place in number of ways. Typically they are all forms of “harassment” creating opportunities for repeated malicious messages and posts designed to target victims. Some cyberbullies target the victims personally by sending them repeated “flaming” emails, texts or chats in an effort to start trouble, threaten or instigate them. This can lead to physical harassment and potential physical harm. Others may “masquerade” and disguise themselves online in an effort to either gain information about the victim that can be shared with others, or to post things anonymously to belittle them or defame their character. Some cyberbullies form groups in which the victim is the target of “exclusion” and in which malicious online posts and conversations are made about him or her. Another form of cyberbullying takes place when personal information is shared about the victim, “outing” him or her in an effort to embarrass or defame him or her, or just expose someone publicly.
Technology has turned bullying into a much bigger issue than it used to be. What was at one time a personal attack among members of a local physical community has become a public one in world-wide digital community. It’s important that we, as users of digital technology, understand what constitutes cyberbullying and act safely, ethically, and responsibly to help put an end to it.
TED. (2015). Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_8y0WLm78U
What is Cyberbullying | StopBullying.gov. (2017). Stopbullying.gov. Retrieved 30 September 2017, from https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html
Copyright is a complex topic that affects all of us. Whether we are creators or consumers, it is important for us to recognize the laws surrounding the resources we find and use not just online, but in the world around us.
One of the most complicated things about copyright is in the use of terminology surrounding it. Students know what plagiarism is, and are taught that copying is wrong. Their teachers encourage them to rewrite what they read so that it appears in their own words, but, based on my experience, many do not require students to credit anyone but the source from where the information was found. It’s important for students to know that the information they find online does not belong to the site it was posted on, but the individual author or creator of the work.
Terms such as “fair use” can also be hard to understand. Fair use is often thought of as a blanket form of protection, on the basis that a resource is being used for educational purposes. The fact is that fair use allows people to use works that aren’t their own without getting permission and without paying for it when they are being used for purposes including news reporting, teaching, research, criticism or commenting (Hirtle, Hudson & Kenyon, 2009). It doesn’t mean the owners of those works don’t have to be credited.
The concept of public domain is based on creative materials that aren’t protected property. Such materials are, as the term implies, owned by the public, and can be used by anyone in any way they see fit without permission or authorization. Copyright laws do not apply to anything in the public domain.
Open source is concept in which a work is shared online and dedicated to the public domain. Open source files and programs are meant to be used, shared, and modified freely by anyone, but are still owned by the creators. While such files typically include no restrictions, they may require specific crediting to the original authors.
Creative commons is a system in which creators can share their original works for use, modification or sharing with others. Owners in creative commons can determine how they want their works to be licensed, specifying how they want to be credited, whether their works can be modified or shared, and whether they can be used commercially. The TEACH Act was passed by Congress in 2002, and was based on copyright laws as they pertain to the use of materials in educational settings. The acronym stands for Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization, and the Act addresses the use of digital materials in distance learning and teaching specifically. It allows for teachers to use a wider range of resources in their courses, which can be shared with students online, who may store and copy them as needed for educational purposes. The Act does not allow for the distribution of purchased materials, such as textbooks or licensed materials.
Copyright laws are complex. With such a vast variety of intellectual property and media, it can be difficult to determine what is right and what is wrong when referencing or using others’ works. As good (digital) citizens it’s important for us to do what we can to understand our responsibilities to respecting the creators of any materials we use.
Hirtle, P.B., Hudson, E., & Kenyon, A. T. (2009). Copyright & cultural institutions: Guidelines for digitization for U.S. libraries, archives, & museums. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
In 2015, while Internet users were blogging on social media pages, uploading videos and other content, and downloading files from a variety of sources, they had no idea that the Federal Communications Commission was going to bat for them. The FCC’s vote to preserve the open Internet, also known as “net neutrality”, made it possible for them to continue to use the Internet as they wish.
The premise of the Net Neutrality is that all traffic on the Internet should be treated the same, and that no one has the right to block or slow down services that a user chooses to access. And while it makes sense and sounds fair to most of us, the decision did come with opposition from internet providers who can no longer control bandwidth or force streaming companies to pay fees for faster service.
Most Internet users give little thought to the way Internet traffic is managed by their service providers. Providers are able to redirect network traffic to ensure smooth service during periods in which the Internet is congested, a benefit that users experience but don’t pay attention to (Reardon, 2015). The FCC’s 2015 decision to limit that control means that Internet service providers aren’t allowed to target any particular services or applications because they use too much bandwidth. They are required to treat all traffic on their networks the same.
This summer, net neutrality has become threatened by a 2017 change in the FCC administration (Reddy, 2017). Newly appointed chairman, Ajit Pai is reportedly endorsed by Internet Service Providers, and if he gets his way, Internet users will lose the freedom of on-demand access to any website or online service they choose (Brodkin, 2017). The potential for ISP’s to restrict what sites you use means that they could become sponsors for particular companies, like Bing for example. Consider the scenario in which you want to “Google” something and your provider only allows you to use Bing. Pai defends his argument with claims that dismantling net neutrality will improve the future of America’s economy.
While media giants Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Reddit all support net neutrality, Internet providers are spending a lot of money to keep the ball rolling that could possible dismantle it. It is in their best interest to do so, as it could potentially allow them to charge us for how we use the internet. It’s not unrealistic to imagine that we’ll be paying for access to specific sites the way we pay for access to specific television channels if net neutrality ceases to exist.
Despite the fact that most Internet users give no thought to the freedom that comes with net neutrality, the day is coming that it becomes an issue of which everyone will be aware. The threat to our freedom of information is a real one, and if the FCC changes the way in which we currently use the Internet, it will no doubt be in the best interest of corporate and political America.
Brodkin, J. (2017). Tech Policy. ArsTechnica.com. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/07/congressman-blasts-ajit-pai-for-anti-consumer-anti-competition-agenda/
McKay, T. (2017). FCC chair Ajit Pai can’t come up with a single plausible reason not to screw up the entire US Internet. Gizmodo.com. Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/fcc-chair-ajit-pai-cant-come-up-with-a-single-plausible-1797286906
Reardon, M. (2015). 13 Things you need to know about the FCC’s net neutrality regulation. Retreived from http://www.cnet.com/news/13-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-fccs-net-neutrality-regulation/
Reddy, N. (2017). Net neutrality in 2017 – what you should know. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/net-neutrality-in-2017-what-you-should-know_us_599debf0e4b06d67e334fa94
Digital Citizenship should be thought of as a core skill for today’s K-12 students. The digital world in which they live is one filled with opportunities, but includes a number of dangers of which digital users need to be made aware. Many of the parents of today’s students are using technology without realizing the power of the tools they are using. Many of them have not been taught about safe and ethical use of the Internet, so they are not capable of teaching their children. That’s why it’s so important that we, as educators, understand our responsibility to these children. They live in a digital world, and need to know how to use it safely, and we are their best hope for becoming good digital citizens.
In my role as a K-5 technology educator, I spend the first quarter of every school year focusing on technology rules and digital safety, respect and responsibility. One of my go-to resources for this unit of instruction is Common Sense Media. I’ve been a registered user of this site for more than five years, and have taken advantage of the many resources offered, including posters, lessons, and parent information, much of which is available in both English and Spanish, which is a necessity in my district. A scope and sequence is provided for classes at grade levels K-12, including lesson plans for each unit. One of my favorites among the lessons is the “online neighborhood” instruction and video, both of which my 1st grade students enjoy. There are also online activities for older elementary students to play independently, including digital compass, or the teacher/classroom based digital passport. Teachers are able to create classes in Digital Passport, assigning specific activities and tracking student progress. My favorite activity in the application is one in which students create a video using music and images, crediting the artists every step of the way. In the end, the video credits the producer, the musicians, and the photographers. The experience inspires students to think differently about the credits at the end of a movie, understanding the importance of providing credit where it’s due. Another activity in this online classroom requires students to identify appropriate and inappropriate text messages.
Another website that is used for elementary aged students throughout my district is NetSmartz. Children enjoy getting to know Clicky and his friends, who are animated characters on the site. Clicky and his friends animated music videos about Internet safety, which are featured on a weekly basis, and there are accompanying activities that students can enjoy independently. I recently printed some posters about internet safety and technology use from this site, which I shared with classroom teachers, in an effort to keep our rules about technology use consistent throughout our school.
While digital citizenship should be a core skill in schools today, it needs to be taught by not just the technology instructor but by all educators. If the teachers in any school are consistent with their expectations regarding the use of technology and digital citizenship our students will be better able to recognize their ethical, responsible and safe use of digital tools.
As citizens , we are recognized as members or inhabitants of a community. And within every community, there are rules that need to be followed for our own well-being and the well-being of others. Whether our communities are physical or digital, the same basic rules apply: be kind, respect others and protect yourself.
Understanding and practicing these concepts is much easier in a physical community, where we recognize the faces of community members, make eye-contact when speaking to one another, and often base our personal safety on visual observation of the world around us. But in a digital world, these basic rules are much more complicated. The digital world includes more potential for danger and it is harder to recognize and easier to disguise than that in our physical world. Digital communities have no physical boundaries and can include an infinite number of members, most of which we may not know. Profile photos may mislead us into trusting people who are not who they say they are. As we communicate with others, what we say and do cannot be forgotten or erased, and remains a part of the digital world forever. As digital citizens, we must understand the dangers and responsibilities that come with our use of the Internet, and practice the use of digital tools with respect, safety and kindness toward others.
As a K-5 educator, I begin my school year by discussing Internet safety with my students. We compare their neighborhoods with “digital” neighborhoods. Just as kids aren’t allowed to just go outside and walk down the street without asking an adult, they should also get permission to go online at home. Just as they should not talk to strangers in their neighborhood, they should not talk to strangers online either. There may be places in their neighborhood that are safe to visit, but there are also places they should not go. It’s important that when they go online, they know where those safe places are. And most importantly, they should always tell an adult if something makes them feel uncomfortable, no matter what neighborhood they are exploring.
I also spend much time with my students throughout the school year practicing digital rights and citing sources. At the bottom of every research worksheet that my 1st-3rd grade students complete, I include the question “How do I know?” This is where they write the web address of the district tool they have accessed (Pebblego or Brittanica). 3rd-5th-grade students use the citation tools provided by Encyclopedia Brittanica to cite their sources. (Typically, we do not allow students to conduct Google searches, for fear of encountering inappropriate images and sites.)