As the world is going digital, digital citizenship becomes an intrinsic necessity for young school children.
It is a whole new era of learning for students, as most of their communication and learning activities are happening online. Educators now extend their responsibilities beyond the classroom to a virtual world, and teaching students to navigate these digital spaces responsibly is an integral part of the process. While media and technology have great prospects for learning, young school children need support and education to learn how to make sound judgments and choices when navigating the digital world.
According to the Common Sense report, “Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance,” half of the teens and over one-quarter of parents say they are addicted to their mobile devices. The “Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens” found that nearly one-half of teens interfere with their learning by multitasking with social media while doing their homework. And a recent report from a group of researchers at Stanford found that 82 percent of middle school students cannot distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website.
These facts and many more explain the need for digital citizenship in today’s school curriculum to help students identify the source of online content and practice safe and ethical behavior online. Schools can also play a critical role by educating, empowering, and engaging children with the best practices around technology use.
What is Digital Citizenship?
Digital Citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology, digital tools, and searchable networks, either for entertainment, informative, or educational purposes. The 2014 report of the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet, “Learner at the Center of a Networked World,” recommends that states adopt policies to ensure that digital literacy is taught as a basic skill in schools.
“Digital Citizenship in Schools,” published by the International Society for Technology in Education, also identifies digital literacy as one of nine key elements of digital citizenship.
The importance of Digital Citizenship in schools’ curriculum
Technology in education is just one of the few ways to equip students with modern-day skills. Here are why digital citizenship is necessary for students:
- Information Literacy
With Google, Wikipedia, and other educational sites, accessing information has been easier for students. But navigating through these sites and understanding available information have always been a challenge for students. Of what use are over 200,000 search results if they do not know how to differentiate useful information from spam?
Teaching digital citizenship or digital literacy empowers students with the skills and technical know-how needed to use the internet and technology to their benefit. They are also trained to identify educational sites, access Google or any other search engine, identify reference materials, and more. Integrating digital citizenship in the school curriculum will further help students know how to use the internet for day-to-day activities (beyond school work).
- Prevent Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is an increasing cause for concern for both teachers and students, and teaching students to engage respectfully online is important for its prevention. Establishing guidelines and introducing responsible online etiquette early, and reinforcing them often, helps students learn to communicate respectfully with peers.
Set clear boundaries. Create lists of digital citizenship rules (online DOs and DON’Ts), and review them often. It encourages students to be open and report any behavior that threatens their safety online. Teaching digital citizenship also builds a solid foundation for students to become responsible citizens, navigating both real and digital worlds with kindness and empathy.
- Online Safety
Online safety is one of the most essential reasons to integrate digital citizenship in today’s school curriculum. Students who are taught to understand and prioritize online safety feel confident to take charge of their digital lives and are less likely to become victims of various online vices. Teaching digital citizenship also helps students know appropriate websites, when to post personal information about themselves and others, and notify a trusted adult when things get out of hand.
- Digital Responsibility
We now have the power to create and define our own digital experiences, and with that power comes responsibility. Students must be taught to use that power wisely, as doing so is essential to their long-term educational and personal success. Knowledge is power. Hence, adding digital citizenship to schools’ curriculum will help educate students on the potential threats of hacking, piracy, and plagiarism, and other forms of theft or inappropriate online conduct.
It will also serve as a continuous reminder for students that there are consequences for inappropriate usages of technology. So, they will learn to be cautious while using the internet or other tech tools.
- Health & Emotional Wellness in the Digital World
Technology can be addictive, and that addiction can be detrimental to students’ health. Students are prone to mental stress, eye problems, ergonomic issues, and even dietary issues while using technology. In the spirit of nurturing students as whole people, educators must also prioritize students’ health while teaching digital citizenship.
Educators should incorporate creative strategies to teach students to use technology safely in ways that preserve and protect their developing social-emotional well-being and physical growth. They should also outline the inherent benefits and dangers created by extensive online engagement, so students know exactly what they are up against.
Adding digital citizenship into a child’s education requires integration from the beginning. To effectively do this, schools from elementary through high school need to work together to ensure that digital citizenship becomes a nationwide initiative. Teach Hub also breaks down the curriculum by grade to help you find ways to reach students at each level.