Digital Citizenship: A Community Approach

With technology in the hands of babes Digital Citizenship starts young.

With technology in the hands of babes Digital Citizenship starts young.

Digital Citizenship is citizenship at a fast pace, with lasting consequence, and easy access to large communities. Teaching digital citizenship requires a community approach as the life associated life skills cross home school boundaries, just as technology does. Here are some thoughts about introducing digital citizenship in K-12 schooling. 

When do you start teaching digital citizenship?

When technology was limited to computers in labs or family desktops, the urgency to teach digital citizenship wasn’t there. Now with phones in the hands of toddlers, the practice starts young. In primary school the initial teachings of Internet Safety start with many of the same tenants of protective behaviors including:

  • don’t give away private details,
  • don’t talk to strangers,
  • think before you act, and above all;
  • have a trusted circle of adults you can ask for help whenever unsure.

Technology adds some new twists, but the core tenants of Internet Safety align well to other aspects of social and emotional learning.

What can parents do?

As the primary educator of children, parents need to understand the new responsibilities of parenting in a

Parents have no frame of reference for parenting with digital technologies.

Parents have no frame of reference for parenting with digital technologies.

digital age.  This is a responsibility none of us have been prepared for by our parents simply because the technology didn’t exist. This means parents need to think about their approach to digital citizenship and online safety while children are still young. Here are some tips I’ve gained from our parent community:

  1. Model the behavior you want to see.
  2. Think about ALL the devices you have (Smart TV, AppleTV, Wii, Playstation, iPad, smart watches, tablets, etc…) as well as the apps (NetFlix etc…) and check parental control settings
  3. Consider a Home Technology Use Agreement in your home to discuss the boundaries and expectations (how long? what content? screen time balance? permissions? outside the home?)
  4. Keep the dialogue going. Internet safety considerations grow with age. Keep the communication open, and assume parent roles for monitoring.
  5. Be a parent. Reserve your right to set the boundaries, check the histories, and impose restrictions when needed. Children may try to convince you they are more tech savvy, but will hopefully thank you later for ensuring their safety and age-appropriate access through your wisdom and life savvy. Don’t forget to guide grandparents and other caregivers too.
  6. Check out the many resources available to parents through the Australian eSafety commissioner or Common Sense Media.

What can schools do?

  1. Run Parent Digital Citizenship workshops. Schools can help parents with how to monitor use, strategies for conversation starters, and building a community to share ideas and strategies.
  2. Become an eSmart school or  Common Sense Media Certified school by developing a whole-school approach to digital citizenship for students, teachers and parents.
  3. Embed Digital Citizenship into everyday learning with and through technology.
  4. Develop web filtering strategies that grow as students do. Increase responsibility when students are ready to increase their access.
  5. Create a Grandparents Guide to Internet Safety. Many parents come to me asking for resources to help grandparents managing children’s technology use.
  6. Enlist students in the learning process. Create purposeful assessment to educate the whole school community through digital creations including: posters, games, ebooks, and advertisements.

What can teachers do?

  1. Model thinking processes online
  2. Give students opportunities to learn online and practice skills of digital citizenship in safe environments (eg. Edmodo or Google Classroom)
  3. Monitor your students online behavior in your virtual classroom and use mistakes as teachable moments to learn
  4. Become a Common Sense Media Certified Educator
  5. Embed Digital Citizenship into your classroom culture, purposefully through teaching about it early on, and continually practice and review. 
  6. Familiarize yourself with useful teaching resources:
    1. Digital Passport
    2. Cyber Detectives
    3. Digital Compass
    4. Hectors’ World

    5. Lee & Kim
    6. eSmart Digital License for Australian Year 6 students
    7. Safer Internet Day
    8. Faux Paw
    9. The Adventures of Smartie the Penguin

This is a growing and changing space, with technology in the hands of babes we all have much to learn.