How Do You Teach It to your child?
In this article, we’ll answer the most common questions we’ve heard about digital citizenship from parents:
- What is digital citizenship?
- What concepts does digital citizenship include?
- How can you teach digital citizenship?
Responsible use of technology
Discover where you can find digital citizenship lesson plans to teach these crucial concepts and skills!
Digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology. Anyone who uses computers, the Internet, and digital devices to engage with one another on any level should follow these guidelines. Good digital citizenship shows children how to connect with one another, empathize with each other, and create lasting relationships through digital tools. Bad digital citizenship, on the other hand, entails cyberbullying, irresponsible social media usage and a general lack of knowledge about how to safely use the Internet. These seven topics are surprisingly simple to discuss:
Empathy – empathy is crucial to understanding how people talk and behave online. It’s impossible to hear someone’s vocal tone, see their facial expressions, or understand other non-verbal cues that you get when you’re speaking to someone face-to-face.
How the Internet works – The Internet is an incredible network of interconnected servers. There are also computers that direct web browser requests through a network of wired and wireless connections. While that’s a vague explanation, the fact is that the Internet has gotten so large and complex that it’s a challenge to be any more specific about it! The Internet is so fast and responsive that it’s almost mind-blowing to consider all of the processes that have to happen behind the scenes just for someone to check their email.
Understanding user data – Nearly every company with a website collects data on the people who visit it. Most of the websites on the Internet use this information for marketing purposes. They may “mine” someone’s web browser for their search history. They might also attach a “cookie,” or unique identifier, to someone’s web browser to see the other websites they visit. A “digital footprint” is the mark that someone’s web browser leaves on the Internet. Whenever you go to any website, you’re tracked by some software that sees your “footprint”. When you return, that same software matches up your previous footprint with your current website visit. The result is that websites know who you are, how many times you’ve visited their website, and what you’ve done while visiting.
Practicing digital literacy – Digital literacy is the practice of reading information online and understanding what it means, where it originated, and whether it’s accurate. It also includes learning about ethics, protecting yourself online and preventing cyberbullying.
Acknowledging the digital divide – The digital divide is the disparity between those who have access to modern digital tools (like computers and the Internet) and those who don’t. Access to computers and the Internet is still restricted by finance in every part of the world. Those in poverty don’t have the same level of access as those who have disposable income. If your children aren’t aware of the digital divide, then they may end up assuming that all kids have equal access to the Internet. The key is to find and inform your kids that some people are fortunate enough to have more than others.
Indulging the internet
Practicing digital wellness – Digital wellness is the practice of knowing when to “take a break” from screens. Digital wellness is important because too much screen time can have adverse effects on children. Dr. Adrian F. Ward of the University of Colorado performed a full study on this topic. She discovered that screen time can impact transactive memory, empathy, and even grey matter development in young minds. Use a combination of health information, psychology, neurology, and current events to illustrate why it’s important to take time away from devices. Teaching the importance of exercise, nutrition and moderation can all play a big role in helping young people understand why it’s important to practice digital wellness.
Securing digital devices – The final element of becoming a good digital citizen is securing digital devices. You’ve shown your kids the importance of empathy. And then you showed them how the Internet works. You’ve even shown them why they need to use digital devices in moderation. What’s left in this equation? Children need to know how they can secure their computers, smartphones, and more. The Tech Edvocate has a great how-to article on the ways you can teach digital security to K-12 students. However, they miss a few things that you should talk about.
First, there’s smartphone security. Ensure they know how to lock and change their smartphone codes or identification patterns. If they use facial recognition, ensure they don’t post similar photos of their faces online. (Yes, this can work. Facial recognition software is unfortunately imperfect.)
Second, teach them about VPNs. You can read a bit about VPNs from Teacher Indie, which has a nice list of ideas to include for any VPN lesson.
Basically, VPNs place a protective shell around your child’s data as it travels throughout the Internet. Not even Internet service providers (ISPs) can crack it but the VPN provider can still decode what you’re doing. The principles of VPNs are based around security, privacy, and the idea that companies aren’t entitled to steal your online data. When you and your children use one, you’re adding an extra layer of protection to your online presence that can make the difference between a carefree life online and identity theft.
Finally, you can talk about antivirus software. Antivirus software comes in many forms and names, keeping your possessions and information safe from those who would steal it. All of this information acts like an extra padlock that you attach to a treasure chest.
The more locks your child have on their personal information, the harder it is for anyone to steal it!