What is digital citizenship?
There may be some confusion regarding what digital citizenship even means. For students, it involves:
Respecting copyright law
Managing digital footprint
It also involves becoming digitally literate and balancing technology use.
Who is responsible for teaching it?
Any teacher who uses technology with students should be incorporating elements of digital citizenship. For example, classes involving research and writing should include evaluating a website’s credibility and writing proper citations. Any time students need to search the internet, direct and explicit instruction on the credibility and reliability of information, as well as research tips, are helpful to steer students toward useful information while disregarding inaccurate or unnecessary information.
Where should it be taught?
Digital citizenship should be taught consistently at school and at home. At school, students should be taught how to become digitally literate and maintain privacy and security. At home, parents should reinforce discussions around safeguarding personal information, discuss cyberbullying, and work with their children on how to browse the web safely and engage with others online in a respectful fashion.
Why should it be taught?
Digital citizenship skills are essential to ensure students' safety and protection. While kids today may have no problem navigating the web, they're less likely to a) know how to vet sources, b) understand the sensitivity of the information they're sharing and c) take in the gravity of conversations they're having online. It's up to us to reinforce these concepts.
How should it be taught?
Plenty of free and quality resources are available to teach students what they need to know.
Common Sense Media offers a wealth of resources to help parents, educators, and advocates teach digital citizenship, including lessons, posters, games, and family engagement information.
Google provides a “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum that includes resources for school and home.
Microsoft provides a Digital Literacy Curriculum that includes information and assessments more appropriate for older users.
The FBI provides “Safe Online Surfing” modules for third through eighth graders.
Everfi presents Ignition, a Digital Literacy & Responsibility curriculum, for sixth through ninth graders.
There are kid-safe search engines to help young learners search the web safely, while also limiting the results to help them key in on useful information. You can also educate students about using free images and citing sources, and BrainPop Educators has helpful tips for helping students become good citizens, not just good digital citizens.
At the end of the day, digital citizenship isn’t just about keeping up with the trends in technology. It’s about challenging students to interrogate the information they’re consuming and to navigate the web responsibly. In doing so, students are reinforcing skills like critical thinking and problem-solving, taking the reins on their learning—abilities any educator would agree will serve them well into their futures.