Children these days grow up surrounded by digital technology. The New Zealand Curriculum is clear about the importance of using digital technologies in the classroom in adherence with an overriding aim of creating connected, life-long learners.
In classrooms around the country, children as young five are participating in Skype sessions with experts, making films, completing quizzes, researching and designing. In short, digital technologies have provided our students with amazing opportunities to create, curate and collaborate.
The teaching website teachthought.com describes digital citizenship as “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” At school, we discuss the responsibilities that come with access to all this amazing technology. Being a good digital citizen has evolved from basic ideas about what makes a good citizen and applied them to the online world. And it is online that may problems arise. The combination of anonymity and sheer reach afforded by the internet creates huge issues for students and teachers.
Comments posted in the weekend cause a raft of repair work for teachers on Monday. Friendships breakdown, school work suffers and thousands of hours of energy are spent supporting students as a result of poor decisions made outside school. In some cases students end up changing schools. In worst cases, they may take their own life.
Not surprisingly, technologies touted as improving and enhancing the learning process can also be seen as the root of all evil.
Which makes me wonder what’s happening at home. I know from experience that children from stable families get into trouble just as easily online as those struggling to survive in less than ideal circumstances. No child is exempt from the challenges presented by digital technology.
Most families have developed rules around using digital devices. But have you ever talked to your kids about being good digital citizens? Have you had conversations with their school about how it promotes digital citizenship (and I don’t just mean cyber safety policies)?
Do younger kids understand about not giving out personal information? Do your tweens comprehend that the digital footprint they create, even via SnapChat posts, never really disappears? Do your teens know how to verify the authenticity of information sourced for projects? Do they know how to cite sources correctly?
While some of these skills are taught at school, parents/caregivers have a vital role to play. I think, no I know, that talking to your children about why, how and where they are using digital technology is important. From making sure they’re not oversharing to ensuring they are aware of respecting other people’s content, we need to know not only what they are up to online but that they understand how to be good digital citizens.
Parents also need to model digital citizenship for their kids, especially when it comes to social media and networks. If your child sends you a message via social media informing you they are bored, is your response to ring the school and complain OR are you going to confiscate the device for a few days on the understanding that a History lesson is not the time or place to be messaging home?! (And yes, there are rules around device use in classrooms but that’s not to say that teens aren’t inventive enough to slip past us occasionally!)
The image below from teachthought.com features nine rules for good digital citizenship and could be a good conversation starter:
So talk to your kids. Keep an eye on what they’re up to. Encourage them to use devices for more than watching YouTube fail vines. If they’re using Minecraft, get them to talk you through what they’re building. You might be amazed with the skills being used when you think they’re mucking around!
At the end of the day, you can rest assured that schools are hyper aware of their responsibilities to promote digital citizenship. But we can’t do it on our own. We need parents/caregivers to do their bit too.