Conversations about Digital Citizenship

This week’s readings on privacy and digital citizenship were interesting. It made me wonder how much my own children know about digital citizenship, so I asked them what they have been learning in school. I used this Edutopia article’s suggestions about what students need to know as a guide.

I asked my high-schooler what he knows about digital citizenship and he said, “They show us a PowerPoint presentation every year and it’s really boring. It’s always on a Friday when everyone is tired and doesn’t care. End of the day on Friday is the worst time to teach anyone anything.” You have to appreciate the honesty of a kid. He makes a good point about not teaching this as a once-a-year lesson. Although, he is in high school and perhaps not the most reliable source.

Once I asked him and his eleven-year-old sister more specific questions about digital citizenship, they had more information to share. For both of them their main idea about digital citizenship is about “being safe and nice online.” This seems to be the predominant message they receive from their teachers. When asked to define “being nice” they talked about not cyber-bullying anyone. Regarding safety, they both talked about creating good passwords, not sharing personal information online, and checking in with your parents if you are unsure of what to share (I was especially happy to hear that last piece). They are also familiar with the idea that you should not post pictures without a person’s permission and be aware of any locations that are visible in a photo, such as street signs. The ways in which photos can be digitally tagged was not something they had learned. Both of my children understand the importance of giving credit to sources online and not plagiarizing. My daughter’s librarian has spent a lot of time teaching this at her school.

My youngest son is in first grade and states that he has not had any lessons on being online yet. Looking at the lessons on Common Sense Media’s site, there are a lot of opportunities to teach digital citizenship for young students. I checked with our school district’s website and found that under digital citizenship they talk about using Common Sense Media’s curriculum. Again, my children are not always the most accurate in reporting what they have done in school, so I will be following up with the school to see when they use this curriculum and in which grades.

None of my children are on social media. My oldest is not interested and the other two children are too young in my opinion. However, in this interview, author Jordan Shapiro talks about his book The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World and makes some interesting points regarding social media. Shapiro argues that children should start young on social media so parents can teach them how to use it and guide their exploration. He makes the connection between abstinence-only education in sex education classes to how parents are told to have not screen time because it is harmful. This analogy is helpful as I confront this issue with my own children. Just as we know that best practice regarding sex ed. it to have many short conversations rather than one “big talk,” we should embrace the idea of having many conversations around digital citizenship with our children. In this way we can help guide them in this new digital landscape.

2 thoughts on “Conversations about Digital Citizenship

  1. My sense from teachers in class over the years is that schools may struggle to find time for things like the Common Sense curriculum, and it’s also probably fair that a lot of teachers aren’t sure how to teach what can potentially be a moving target.

    Other safety things — turning on location services, knowing how to limit tracking of searches, and, I’d add, knowing how to effectively contribute to a productive digital environment (as a step beyond “don’t be bad).


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