In the 21st century, one of the very important parts of each educator’s job is to ensure that kids are taught how to stay safe online, how to use technology in a respectful and responsible way, and how to protect their digital identities. Integrating technology into the classroom makes no sense when students are not instructed about the proper ways to use it, and technology enhances learning the most when both kids and teachers deeply understand it. An inseparable part of this understanding is becoming a digital citizen.
You might ask: what is digital citizenship, anyway? In a nutshell, it’s knowing how to behave with caution and respect in the digital communities, how to be safe, ethical and think critically while being online. Mike Ribble, educator, author of Digital Citizenship in Schools (2007), and a digital citizenship advocate, defines this concept as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use”. Mike has developed a framework of 9 elements of digital citizenship, which comes down to these crucial aspects:
1. Digital Access – The idea that not everyone has equal opportunities to use technology, so we all need to work together to give the access to it to others.2. Digital Commerce – Buying and selling goods online safely, and being a responsible consumer in the digitalized world.
2. Digital Communication – Appropriate and responsible sharing of information online.
Digital Literacy – Constant learning about technology and its possibilities.
3. Digital Etiquette – Online rules and the code of conduct.
4. Digital Law – Responsibility of lawful using content online.
5. Digital Rights and Responsibilities – Having freedoms and obligations while being online.
6. Digital Health and Wellness – Physical and psychological well-being in the digital world.
7. Digital Security – Self-protection online.
While these 9 pillars of responsible online presence are applicable to each and every adult person, they are especially important for children, growing up surrounded by technology everywhere. Teaching digital citizenship for kids means showing them how to be responsible consumers of the digital world, how to be conscious while being online, how to protect themselves, establish positive and respectful online identities and footprints. Teaching digital citizenship lessons also means preparing them for the future, immersed with technology – the future they will be a part of and will be shaping themselves.
The first and most important idea, which we need to teach our children, though, is the following:
“Citizenship is what we do to fulfill our role as a citizen. That role starts as soon as we click on the internet”