Teaching Digital Citizenship: The Do's and Don'ts
Very few of us live a completely off-line life these days, and if you're an educator, it's nearly impossible to imagine doing your job without the internet. The same goes for your students, too: By the time the get to middle school, they're probably doing at least one assignment a day online, if not more.
That means that teaching digital citizenship, more specifically good digital citizenship, to students is more important than ever. With so much of their lives occurring online, they'll need to know how to behave in ways that keep them safe, happy, and help them to build communities that span the traditional boundaries of time and place.
But do you practice what you preach?
One of the most important ways you can impart the rules of good digital citizenship to your students is by modeling the behaviors you wish to see. Sure, you may not be friends with your second graders on Facebook, but nothing is private online. Here's how to make sure you're being your best self on the internet.
Digital Citizenship Do's
1. Remember the Golden Rule
If you commit only one digital citizenship rule to heart, the Golden Rule is a good one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (online). That means taking a minute to think before you post to make sure what you're putting out there is kind, thoughtful, and won't hurt anyone's feelings or online reputation. It can be difficult to discern tone without a human voice, so skip the sarcasm. Aim for clarity and sincerity when you interact online, and you'll be off to a great start.
2. Pause Before You Post
We've become so used to sharing everything on social media—breakfast selfies, anecdotes about our kids and pets, etc.—that it's become a habit to upload a photo or quick video without really thinking. But before you hit send, make sure that everyone pictured in your post would be okay with it. You might think that funny story about your child's lisp is super-cute, but they may disagree when they get to high school.
The same is true for photos of co-workers at the annual holiday bash: are they being displayed in the best light? Get in the habit of asking first and posting second so you don't accidentally tarnish someone's online image.
3. Safety First, Second, and Third
Think carefully about your screen name when you log into a new chat room or website. Do you really want cyber passersby to have enough info to suss out where you live and work? The same goes for passwords and other personal details: Keep this info close to your vest, and crank your privacy settings to 11 to keep security breaches and data theft at bay.
4. Put Trolls in Time Out
There's nothing worse than having an online forum disrupted by one or two people hell-bent on arguing and/or belittling others. But have you ever once changed someone's mind on the internet? The only way to stop a troll is to deny him what he most wants: negative attention. You don't have to participate in conversations that make you crazy, so ... don't. It's always okay to walk away from online interactions that aren't working for you — that's what the block button is for.
Digital Citizenship Don'ts
1. Don't "Borrow" or Plagiarize Material
We all know that plagiarism is a no-no in academia, but it's also a problem online. Just because a meme, photo, or idea is on the internet doesn't mean that it's free. Before you take a screenshot of an image for your blog or quote an article you read, be sure to attribute it to the author. For images, stick to Creative Commons freebies, or get permission to share from the owner. You wouldn't want someone taking credit for your brilliance, so be careful not to misuse someone else's intellectual property.
2. Don't Hide Behind the Screen
The anonymity of a screen name often encourages people to act in ways that they never would in person — that's why those comments sections can be so fraught. Before you post, make sure everything you wrote is something you would feel comfortable saying out loud to that person's face. Don't know what that face actually looks like in real life? Picture your grandma instead, and you won't be tempted to reside under the metaphorical bridge with the other online trolls.
3. Don't Forget Your Due Diligence
Fake news is a real problem. Don't help it spread. Use your research savvy to double-check the veracity of information before you share it with others, making sure to rely on trustworthy sources. You want your students to learn the difference between fact and fiction, but adults are increasingly having a hard time distinguishing between what's real and what's made up online. It's more important now than ever before to make sure you aren't accidentally spreading rumors and misinformation.
Once you've brought your own digital citizenship skills up to snuff, you're ready to model them for your students. Be sure to make digital citizenship a regular part of your routine rather than assuming a one-off lesson will cut it. There are appropriate ways to address the topic for all ages, so make this a conversation that comes up in your classroom again and again.
Do you have any tips for teaching digital citizenship? Tell us on Twitter @Schoology