According to TeenSafe, in 2016, 87% of today’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying while 34% personally experienced cyberbullying. Among the surveyed students, 15% have admitted to cyberbullying others, while 24% said they did not know what to do if they would be harassed online. Most commonly reported types of cyberbullying includes spreading rumours and experiencing hurtful comments based on physical looks, race, religion, and sexuality in social media platforms. Negative impact on the victim, such as low self-esteem, development of self-harming behaviours, and suicidal thoughts, follows the experience of cyberbullying.
#DigCit – Why it Matters?
Cyberbullying is just one of the many unfortunate and unnecessary ill-effects of the proliferation of technology tools. Some sees tech tools, such the iPad, Internet, mobile phones, and social media platforms, as the source of these problems and so, reactively remove or ban them in school or classroom premises. While there might be valid reasons behind these courses of actions, empowering students, parents, teachers, and everyone in the school community with the necessary digital skills is the more proactive and essential answer to these unending issues and challenges. This is why digital citizenship matters!
What’s Digital Citizenship?
In simple terms, digital citizenship is the norms of appropriate and responsible use of technology. In school setting, digital citizenship covers concepts and skills that teachers, technology leaders, school administrators, and parents should teach and develop in students or technology users for them to use technology tools appropriately. Digital citizenship covers areas such digital security, literacy, rights, use, and digital-emotional intelligence among others.
The importance of digital citizenship makes it a necessary area to be included in a school or district’s technology program framework. It is not enough to focus on ensuring that the physical infrastructure is ready or that the whole school or district is wired or has purchased the necessary devices. It is not enough to train teachers or staff about the pedagogical and technical aspect of teaching with tech in the classroom. Teachers should also be armed with the skill to direct students to use technology properly. Digital citizenship is not external to the student’s experience in a technology-rich learning environment. It is an integral part of it.
How to Promote Digital Citizenship?
- Digital citizenship should be embedded in every tech-integrated lesson or learning activity. For example, when students are taught to research or gather information about a certain topic from the Internet, they should know how to properly search for information, credit authors properly, or even to critically evaluate their sources. When students are taught to collaborate online, they must know the proper way or the accepted and expected behaviour in sharing, listening, accepting or disagreeing with the opinions of other people. When students are taught to share their learnings to the public audience via the Internet, then they must also know how to protect the private aspect of their lives.
- Involve parents in the digital citizenship program of the school. After school, students spend the rest of their time at home. Sometimes, they are even left alone with their mobile devices. During these unguarded moments, any form of cyber attack or cyber danger can pop out in front of the learner. Involving parents and discussing with them the importance of and the different ways to promote digital citizenship even at home can support the school’s program. The partnership between schools and parents solidifies and reinforces the program in all aspects.
- Design meaningful and effective digital citizenship program that caters to the student’s context/ needs and is a product of school community collaboration. There are numerous online resources which can help teachers or schools draft their own digital citizenship program. Sites such as Common Sense Media and Google for Education have excellent resources for embedding digital citizenship in daily classroom encounters. However, the most important aspect of creating and implementing a digital citizenship program is to really involve every member of the school community so that all areas will be covered. Getting contributions from each member of the community gives the message that every one’s idea is important and vital to the framework.
- Model digital citizenship. Students shouldn’t only be the ones who are practicing digital citizenship. Teachers and parents should also be role models to effectively develop digital citizenship skills among learners.
#DigCit in 1 minute
Here is a short-video from the 1-Minute Professional Learning, a team that works on bite-size professional learning videos for teachers, on the importance of digital citizenship. The team’s videos are accessible at: http://facebook.com/1minutePL/