Digital Citizenship

This video provides an overview of the elements of digital citizenship, which, as students spend increasing amounts of time online, is imperative that they understand.

Digital Citizenship Reflective Journal

The principles, behaviors and standards of conduct necessary for a society to thrive are the same ones required of citizens in the digital realm. The more time we spend online—which increases yearly—the greater the need to establish and instill strong digital citizenship awareness among our students. In order to take advantage of all the conveniences and opportunities the internet has to offer, we must ensure that the internet is populated with people who practice kindness, are aware of dangers, and understand the eternal nature of what they post online. The best way to create such a society is to start with the young people in our schools.

Cutting someone off on the freeway or loudly playing inappropriate music in a quiet place are examples of things while not necessarily illegal, definitely demonstrate a lack of etiquette. The same holds true for our practices online. While flaming or trolling another person or group of people online may not be technically against the law, it certainly shows a lack of etiquette. It is behavior that makes the online experience particularly unpleasant—even for “bystanders” who are not the intended victims of the cyberbullying but witness it all the same. It is interesting and disappointing to witness this type of behavior online knowing that the person engaging in the cyberbullying is less likely to do it in a real-life situation. If you wouldn’t do it in real life, and you wouldn’t want your grandma to witness you doing it, you shouldn’t do it online.

Perhaps the most important aspect of being online that we must impart to young people is that dangers are very real and ever-present. Students need to know that seemingly innocuous posts that include where they attend school, where they live, and their daily schedules can be used by nefarious people to make contact with them in the physical world. These young people must understand that predators who are practiced at grooming victims lurk on social networking applications. When these predators successfully lure the unknowing young victims they have been communicating with online to meet them in the real world, the potential for unspeakable tragedy increases exponentially.

Finally, young people must be made to understand the eternal nature of the things that they post. A mean comment, a questionable photograph, a disparaging remark can have unforeseen consequences many years later. As youth grow up with social media, they don’t think twice about posting their random thoughts and observations. Unless they are instructed, they have little regard for the long-lasting “shelf-lives” of their posts. Later, when they are applying for university or seeking employment, these posts that they might not have given a second thought can have real implications on their college admittance or their candidacy for securing the job. Search engines are remarkable pieces of technology. They can dredge up artifacts from our pasts they we might prefer to leave buried. Students should understand that what they post lives on forever; so, they need to think carefully about how they present themselves online.

The need for online courtesy (etiquette), the dangers that exist online, and the eternal lifespan of our posts are important elements of strong digital citizenship instruction. We must equip or students with the knowledge of digital citizenship so that they can reap the tremendous benefits of the internet in a safe, positive way.

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