How to Teach Digital Citizenship

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Digital citizenship is a concept pioneered by organizations like the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) in which parents, schools and other technology leaders recommend focusing energy on preparing students and kids for a tech-centric society by teaching them about appropriate and positive ways to use technology, as opposed to focusing on the potential negative outcomes of technology. Instead of spending all of our time teaching kids about cyberbullies and online predators under this system, for example, we might rather focus on teaching a curriculum of digital citizenship in which kids learn the right ways to act online and use the Internet for positive causes, such as charity. For those looking for advice on how to teach kids digital citizenship or immediately apply its principles, here are five tips to help the next generation learn to thrive online.

Do Unto Others…

Remember the golden rule, and apply it to your online interactions, especially on social networking sites. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, with respect, dignity and extra attention to how thoughts and actions will affect others. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is a great way to make sure you’re practicing positive digital citizenship.

The Grandma Rule

Before any post, message, or share, consider whether or not you’d want your grandma to see it.  Because essentially, when you post something to a social network or send it directly to a friend, you’ve lost all control and it’s theoretically possible it could make it into grandma’s hands. So make sure everything you do or think passes the grandma test and it will likely keep kids from sharing or doing activities they otherwise shouldn’t be.

Spread Heart, Not Hurt

With a hat tip to Yahoo! Safely and Common Sense for the perfect turn of a phrase, we love the idea of a simple way for kids to remember to spread and embrace positive messages, and avoid engaging in negative behavior. Spread positive messages and watch your social network connections and online enjoyment grow, and learn how to appropriately deal with any negative behavior you do see online.

Remember the Three Ps of Information – All the information you share is permanent, public and powerful. Information is permanent because once you post it, it can live online forever, even if you delete it off your profile. It’s also public because everyone can potentially see it. And of course it’s powerful, as words and online actions can have a deep and lasting impact, so use them for good.

So what are specific ways we as parents or teachers help our children understand the ins and outs of being a good cybercitizen? Following are actionable activities, exercises, and questions for you to use to help your family understand the concepts. Think of this workbook as a quick how-to guide for your teaching your family about digital citizenship.

Resources

There are also a number of resources available for parents and teachers online, such as a free curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools at Common Sense Media that can help teach digital civitzenship. For example:

  • The Family Online Safety Institute’s A Platform for Good is designed to highlight Digital Citizenship and encourage it by offering kids rewards. With sections for parents, teachers and teens, it’s a must visit for all families online.
  • Connect Safely is the net’s most trusted resource for all things pertaining to online safety, featuring extensive tips, articles and links to other Digital Citizenship resources.
  • One of the first sites to focus on the issue was DigitalCitizenship.net, providing an overview of Digital Citizenship, with links to resources and description of the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. Great for stimulating discussions.
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About author

Scott Steinberg

High-tech parenting and small business expert Scott Steinberg is the creator of the bestselling The Modern Parent’s Guide and Business Expert’s Guidebook series. The CEO of business consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global, he’s among today’s top strategic consultants, keynote speakers and expert witnesses.

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