Dear readers, this post is a part of my series, Tech Trends in Education. This is post 2 of 4. This series is likely most valuable to parents and educators. If this series isn’t of interest to you, I hope you’ll share it with someone who might benefit from this research and my perspective as an elementary school teacher.
Perhaps you’ve heard of digital citizenship curriculum and you have absolutely no idea what this means. Perhaps this seems like another passing trend in education. What is it? Why do children need it? Readers, you may be surprised.
Teaching a child how to behave and interact with his world has been an essential part of child rearing and education since the beginning of time. Children have always needed the direction of trusted adults and this has not changed. The world, however, is always changing.
A child’s world has become increasingly more digital, more “plugged in,” as we often say. Technology has been integrated into everything from our grocery stores to our churches. Our children interact with the digital world both at school and at home more than ever before in the history of the world. Our children need us to teach them the rules for interacting with this digital world. Students need to know how to behave in a digital society.
This may sound ridiculous to you at first, but I think we’ve all witnessed adults who misbehave on social media. We’ve all witnessed the disasters of undefined social norms on Facebook and Twitter. Respectable citizens of our communities who have always been known for outstanding character and integrity suddenly take to social media to argue with their neighbors, loved ones, and even their dog groomer about political beliefs or the newest hot button issue in ways they’d never behave in person. Sometimes it seems that we have forgotten how to love our neighbor when we’re facing a screen. If civilized grown ups struggle to learn how to behave online, you can be certain that children who regularly misbehave in the cereal aisle need a significant amount of online guidance, as well.
So, what is digital citizenship? This article from ISTE.org (International Society for Technology in Education) declares that digital citizenship is the new citizenship. Well, they aren’t wrong. That’s quite a claim, but I tend to agree that online behavior is an essential component of good citizenship. Simply put, a digital citizen is one who engages online in a safe, responsible, and effective way while treating others with kindness and etiquette. Children need to know that we mustn’t throw our manners or our safety out the window when we sit at a keyboard.
If a digital citizen is one who engages with the online world in a safe, responsible, and effective manner, then you can infer what might be taught in Digital Citizenship Curriculum. These curricula are usually chosen by school leaders, technology directors, or educators within the school district or building level to guide children safely through the use of technology. We cannot turn a blind eye to the increasing need for this instruction in modern-day classrooms.
Thankfully, numerous resources and curricula exist to assist in digital citizenship lessons. I have spent a significant amount of time exploring the Digital Citizenship Curriculum available from Common Sense Media. Due to the expansive library of resources on their site, I’ve barely brushed the surface with all that’s available to families and schools. I first learned about this curriculum from a good friend of mine who is also the librarian at my oldest son’s middle school. I’m so thankful for the way she diligently guides my child and his peers through the many unwritten rules of online communication. Like my wise librarian friend, I’ve been quite impressed with the approach Common Sense Media takes in their Digital Citizenship Curriculum.
I have personally read dozens of articles on their site in addition to the knowledge I’ve gleaned from their age-appropriate and family friendly videos. Their archives are quite prolific and yet every resource I’ve encountered has shared my deeply ingrained value of wholesome childhoods. Check out this video for middle grade students that explains the difference between personal and private information. This video teaches children that some information should never be shared online. Whether we like it or not (and I tend to lean toward not), digital citizenship is a component of keeping our children safe in our 21st Century world.
We have a great responsibility to keep our children and students safe. Likewise, we’ve been entrusted to instruct these little ones in conduct and wisdom so that they can become all that God has created them to become for His glory.
Perhaps their generation will become the most fluent at speaking truth and love simultaneously online. If we lead them well, they may be the generation who remembers Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself even when they are sitting behind a keyboard. It is our job to guide them. We must be intentional. That intentionality just may look like classrooms and homes that carefully choose Digital Citizenship Curriculum and instruct lessons with more wisdom and less fear.
May we prepare children to treat one another with kindness even when the other person is on the other side of a screen.
May we protect children from those who intend to do harm by equipping them with valuable skills so that they may be discerning and wise.
May we train and educate children so that they may become successful contributors to society for His glory and by His grace.
From my heart to yours,