Digital citizenship

The current generation of students are very comfortable around technology, often more so than us teachers. Therefore, it can be easy to assume that they understand the concepts behind the technology and can operate it safely. Unfortunately, because children are using the technology from such a young age, often before they can talk, they are not explicitly taught about the risks of sharing information. Children are born into a safe secure environment where they can freely share information with those around them and trust that it won’t be used against them. When a child is given access to the Internet through apps, software and social networking, it is similar to letting them walk around the shopping centre. You would not allow your young child to go out unsupervised or any child alone without first teaching them about stranger danger, manners and road safety. The same must be said for the Internet. Young children should not be using the Internet unsupervised when they do not understand the ramifications of their actions. Children must be educated about Internet safety and etiquette, and become aware of the dangers that they may face before being allowed free access. This needs to be taken into account at schools also. Internet use should be supervised the way any excursion to a public place is supervised with both educator and parent bearing some responsibility for the education of the child. The same expectations should apply for digital citizens in a virtual world as apply for citizens of the real world.

“digital citizenship means the ability to use technology safely, responsibly, critically, and pro-actively to contribute to society.” (http://ecitizenship.csla.net/)
Educating children about becoming a digital citizen can be done using a variety of tools to illustrate the issues at hand. This Wiki (http://k12digitalcitizenship.wikispaces.com/) provides a range of lessons and resources which can be used to develop digital citizenship at any grade level. The concept of REPs (Respect, Educate, Protect) is a way to explain as well as teach the themes of digital citizenship.

Respect Your Self/Respect Others

  • Etiquette
  •  Access
  • Law

Educate Your Self/Connect with Others

  • Communication
  • Literacy
  • Commerce

Protect Your Self/Protect Others

  • Rights and Responsibility
  • Safety (Security)
  • Health and Welfare
Student need to be taught how their presence online reflects who they are as a member of society. Being a digital citizen is a fact of life these days. Everyone must be a well-behaved digital citizen looking to help others. Creating a positive digital footprint is an essential skill to have when participating as a member of the online community. This blog (http://edudemic.com/2013/04/the-5-things-all-digital-citizens-should-do/) outlines five things all digital citizens should do.
  1. Protect private information for themselves and others.
  2. Respect themselves and others in online communities
  3. Stay safe online by listening to their gut feelings
  4. Stand up to cyber bullying when they see it happening
  5. Balance the time they spend using media and doing other activities
Another way of teaching digital citizenship is by using real world items to illustrate points. This blog (http://comfortably20.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/the-digital-citizenship-survival-kit.html) illustrates a unique way of creating an understanding of the concepts involved in cyber etiquette. This graphic (http://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/digital-citizenship/) would make an ideal poster for a classroom and could be used in an activity to create their own Digital Citizenship guidelines or to explore how each of the ideas can be used in context.
There are nine elements of digital citizenship:
  1. Digital Access:   full electronic participation in society.
  2. Digital Commerce:   electronic buying and selling of goods.
  3. Digital Communication:   electronic exchange of information.
  4. Digital Literacy:   process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.
  5. Digital Etiquette:   electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
  6. Digital Law:   electronic responsibility for actions and deeds
  7. Digital Rights & Responsibilities:   those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
  8. Digital Health & Wellness:   physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
  9. Digital Security (self-protection):   electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

These are reflected in the Australian Curriculum ICT Capabilities and Education Queensland’s Student ICT Expectations. More detail on these nine elements can be found at http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/uploads/LL2008DCArt.pdf

Cyber safety is about more than just protecting children by using filters to control the information students can access. Filters can be bypassed and can also hinder students in their research by blocking sites which bear relevance to curriculum topics. Many schools filter YouTube, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking, and other content-rich online services for both students and employees. This prevents educators from accessing potentially-powerful educational material. Students need to learn, at an age appropriate level how to judge the credibility of information and how to avoid unwanted content. They also need to understand strategies to combat any kind of bullying behaviour. Although the media would have us believe that cyber bullying is extremely prevalent among children, it is important to recognise that most bullying occurs offline within school grounds and on the way home. Cyber bullying is simply another avenue for bullies to target victims. More resources can be found at Cybersmart (http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Schools/Teacher%20resources.aspx) and Education Queensland (http://education.qld.gov.au/studentservices/behaviour/qsaav/info-school-staff.html) to help teachers fulfil their role in creating awareness about cyber bullying.
One of the really great resources for educating both students and teachers alike on cybersafety is Connect.ed as discussed by ECSalter and others which is an online course that touches on many issues relating to interacting with the connected world.
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