5 Tips to Help Parents Teach Digital Citizenship at Home
When I started my work around internet safety, I was the Cybrarian and Digital Media Specialist. Part of my job was to speak with students, parents, and teachers about how students can be safe online. This was back in 2000, before every child held a computer in their hand. What a difference twenty years makes!
Gone are the days when students only interact with computers in a lab setting. They’re now essential to completing everyday schoolwork. Though much has changed, I still worry about our students being safe and acting smart online. With the advent of social media sites such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, our students are constantly sharing with others online. They are sharing anything that comes to mind, everything they are doing—or eating. One of the most important lessons I try to get students to understand is that nothing on the internet disappears. Nothing is private. It is so easy to capture and share screenshots from a video chat, and private moments they thought they had spent with a friend online don’t always stay private.
I am most concerned about our students in middle and high school. I do not talk about the digital footprint any longer. Students are now creating digital tattoos that will stay with them forever. A tattoo is permanent and cannot be removed. With the current climate of the pandemic, electronic communication tools are being used more widely. What students post online, even in middle school, can impact their future. I ask teachers and parents to use these tips to help students as they navigate the vast space of the internet.
- Respect — Students should always be respectful when communicating or creating in the online world. I cannot stress enough to treat others online the way they would like to be treated in person. Just because they are not face-to-face doesn’t mean they are free to speak with disrespect. The words they put out online will follow them as they move through life. When considering what path to follow after school, they should remember that colleges and employers will look at their digital tattoo.
- Ownership — Students need to take charge of their digital lives. A student’s digital tattoo starts early. We need to remind our students they are responsible for everything they do online. They are the ones clicking on the keys and uploading photos and are responsible for how large their digital tattoo becomes.
- Voice — Students need to explore ways to show positivity on the internet. We can help them by creating activities that model collaboration and positivity in the online environment. Facilitating opportunities for students to experience the internet’s potential for positivity can go a long way to helping students represent themselves as the strong individuals we know they are.
- Wellness — Students need to step away. We all realize in this digital world this is easier said than done, but everyone needs to step away from the screen from time to time. Spending too much time on electronic devices can cause feelings of isolation and depression. Our students should be engaging in activities at home and school that allow them time away from the screen.
- Protection — Students need to protect their digital selves. Students may think it is a good idea to share account information such as usernames and passwords with friends, but this is just like giving the key to their house to people on the street. Remind students to keep their private information private and not to share too much about themselves. There are people that are looking for small bits of personal information online that they can piece together like a puzzle to form a larger picture.
In these ever-changing times, it is essential we help our students to get started on the right foot as they explore the digital world. The tips above are guides. We should speak openly and honestly with our students about the power of the internet and how they can utilize it in a way that doesn’t negatively impact their future.