By Melody Bergman
This article is part of a series by the J.B. Watkins PTA Digital Safety Committee to answer parent questions about Digital Citizenship. Our fabulous JBW staff is working hard teaching our kids to be great digital citizens, and we want to help parents stay in the loop too! If you have a question that you would like featured in one of our posts, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a parent or teacher, you might have heard the buzzword “DigCit” or “Digital Citizenship” floating around. Even the Obama Foundation recently announced that Digital Citizenship it is a big priority on their agenda.
But what does Digital Citizenship really mean?
When we were kids, we were taught to be “good citizens” by being kind to our neighbor, picking up litter, and watching out for strangers. Nowadays, the landscape has changed. Our kids don’t spend as much time interacting on the playground as we did. Their playground–and a lot of their education–is online.
As parents, we need to make the switch too. Our parents and educators helped us to be good citizens on in the schoolyard. Now it’s our job to apply the same concepts to our children’s new virtual environment and teach them to be good digital citizens.
Lucky for us, Chesterfield County Public Schools has already purchased some fantastic software from Common Sense Media to help instruct our kids. The K-12 curriculum is broken down into 8 categories and includes 65 grade-differentiated lesson plans that include videos, iBooks Textbooks, pdfs, interactive games for the kids and other support materials.
Teachers and school counselors have already begun using it in the classroom, and CCPS is working on a plan to roll it out to families soon. Here is a preview of the curriculum* and what it entails:
- Internet Safety. Internet safety or “e safety” has become a fundamental topic in our digital world and includes knowing about Internet privacy and how to support a healthy interaction with the use of the Internet. Students explore how the Internet offers an amazing way to collaborate with others worldwide, while staying safe.
- Privacy & Security. Just as in real life, it’s important for kids to know who they can trust with their information online. Though security programs and privacy settings can help block some issues, such as computer viruses and cookies, kids should also learn how to create strong passwords and protect their private information. Developing skills around Internet privacy and safety can help set a strong foundation for students and their digital lives.
- Relationships & Communication. Whether we’re reading an online review, posting something on a social-networking site, texting a friend, or sharing a photo through an app, we’re participating in a world where we can be instantly connected to thousands of people at a moment’s notice. When kids connect with each other from a distance or through a screen name, it can affect the way they behave. Kids need a code of conduct for using the Internet and mobile media just as they need a code of conduct in the offline world. They should be empowered to be good digital citizens, in addition to being good citizens in general.
- Cyberbullying & Digital Drama. Statistics have shown that modern technology with its ability to increase our connectivity can also be the perfect platform for bullying. Students can learn what to do if they are involved in a cyberbullying situation as well as ways of how to stop cyberbullying by exploring the roles people play and how individual actions — both negative and positive — can impact their friends and broader communities. Students are encouraged to take the active role of upstander and build positive, supportive online communities.
- Digital Footprint & Reputation. Our digital world is permanent, and with each post, students are building a digital footprint. By encouraging students to self-reflect before they self-reveal, they will consider how what they share online can impact themselves and others. Awareness about one’s own digital footprint can also help to support digital literacy.
- Self Image & Identity. Whether designing avatars for virtual worlds, selecting profile pictures, or carefully crafting texts to friends, kids have countless opportunities to express themselves through digital media. On one hand, playing around with creative identities can be a safe and imaginative way for kids to explore who they are. On the other hand, a digital identity can be a way for kids to dodge personal consequences, push limits and act in ways they wouldn’t in the real world. Either way, if there’s a large gap between an online and an offline identity, it can fragment a kid’s sense of self. It’s important to to help kids consider how their identities — online and offline — may affect their relationships, sense of self, and reputation.
- Information Literacy. Information literacy includes the ability to identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively. From effective search strategies to evaluation techniques, students learn how to evaluate the quality, credibility, and validity of websites, and give proper credit. Information Literacy has also been referred to as digital literacy or media literacy. Regardless of the terminology, be it digital literacy or media literacy, having information literacy skills are the fundamentals to thrive in a digital space.
- Creative Credit & Copyright. With such easy access to information, art, photography, and other original material online, it’s all too easy to drag and drop a file and forget attribution. It’s important for kids to know about copyright, fair use, and the rights they have as creators. Students are taught the legal terminology and ethical implications associated with these issues and are encouraged to think critically about the material they are using online, especially if it belongs to someone else.
Just imagine, all this great curriculum is already onboard and being taught in our classrooms. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get in on the action. It’s exciting to consider how much more powerful these lessons will be when we can reinforce them in our homes too. Stay tuned for more details, coming soon!
Melody Bergman is chair of the Digital Safety Committee for the J.B. Watkins PTA and founder of MamaCrossroads.com – Positive Parenting in a Digitally Saturated World. She has three crazy boys–two at Watkins and one in college! Melody has a bachelor’s in communications, works part-time for Protect Young Minds and Educate & Empower Kids, and is a leader on the Prevention Task Force for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
For more updates in the global effort to keep our kids digitally safe, check out the Eyes-Wide-Open Dispatch.
*Category descriptions adapted from Common Sense Media, https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship.