Digital Citizenship

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Does Digital Literacy Require Open Social Media?

Teachers and principals are increasingly advocating that schools unblock social media sites in the interest of teaching digital literacy. Derek McCoy, a North Carolina middle-school principal, says restrictions should be lifted despite risks because people learn from mistakes and "cannot be governed by fear." Many educators feel that learning how to behave online responsibly and safely, a concept known as digital citizenship, requires access to social media tools in schools.

If you are wondering how pervasive the blocking of social media is in schools, you should know that currently in New York City, if an educator wants to use YouTube or other blocked sites in the classroom, they have to fill out a form, get approval from the principal, and send the request to the city’s Department of Education. The process may seem arduous but actually is rather lax when compared to other districts, where the entire district must agree to block or unblock a website across all its schools.

Do you know how social sites are handled at your school? If sites are unblocked there is a danger of more cyberbullying and other bad actions by students. However, many educators would like to be more in control of when social media can used. As many teachers point out, students use these sites freely at home and in other settings, and the only way they are going to learn to use them responsibly is to use them.

Kids and Social Media Contracts

The Children’s Commissioner for England and an English law firm have teamed together to release guides, sorted by age group, for the lengthy and jargon-filled terms and conditions of social media sites. The Commissioner has criticized Instagram for its 17-page, 5,000-word terms and conditions. While some critics have replied that there are reasons that the term sheets are quite long, as very difficult concepts have to be explained, most people would still like to have those terms explained in everyday language rather than legalese especially when trying to explain these terms to their children. While the terms of use on many social media sites are different in England than the US, parents may find these guides useful for their overall discussion about the need to read and understand these terms when signing up for a new service and knowing what a person’s rights – young or old -are under these contracts.

Bill Proposed to End Anonymity for Political Social Ads

New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky has proposed a bill that would mandate any political ads shown on Facebook or other social sites to name the person or organization that purchased them. "Not another political ad should run on social media without voters knowing exactly who paid for it," he says. This follows the release Facebook made to congressional investigators of over 3,000 ads bought by a Russian entity to interfere in U.S. politics and the 2016 presidential election. Twitter has pledged to follow suit. The revelation about the source of those ads, and the lack of transparency in who posts them, certainly adds another issue to cover for parents in any discussion of digital literacy.

Red Light, Green Light

In one Arizona district, high schools have implemented a "traffic light" system to help with managing digital device use in the classrooms. Posters in individual classrooms display red, yellow or green signals indicating if students can, or cannot, use their digital devices during class. Students say it lets them know what to expect when coming into a class and gives them a break to concentrate on the tasks at hand. They also say it helps keep them from getting their phone confiscated.

Google Partners with Tech Group to Create Digital Citizenship Game

Two of the biggest champions of educational technology — Google and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) — have teamed up to create a new way to teach digital citizenship. Be Internet Awesome, a program developed in concert with the Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe the Coalition and ConnectSafely, educates kids about digital citizenship in interactive ways, including an online game. Designed for schools, many of the materials on the site are also helpful to kids and their parents.

Incorporating Digital Citizenship into School Technology Programs – Some Ideas

As children are now allowed more and more to bring their own digital devices into their classrooms, David Anrade, a K-12 strategy specialist, writes that it is increasingly important that students receive lessons on digital citizenship. Anrade says that when giving your child a device, it is your duty as a parent to teach them how to use it responsibly and discuss the risks associated with how he or she uses it to communicate with the world. Children can be bullied, victimized, scammed or led to disclose personal information through the web. In fact, the Cyberbullying Research Center reports that one of every four teens has experienced bullying while online.

Digital Citizenship 101

A recent EdTech article titled 3 Basic Digital Citizenship Standards All Educators Should Know and Teach, is a great read for both educators and parents. The article reminds adults that children look to them for media literacy tips, which is especially important in today’s news climate, with information posing as reliable not always being accurate. Parents and other significant adults also need to remind young people of the consequences of their digital actions and that a key part of digital etiquette is the understanding of copyright laws and plagiarism. In addition, both parents and students need to also understand the regulations that schools must follow to protect student data and privacy.

The News on Fake News Isn’t Good

According to a Slate.com article by Alexander Burgoyne and David Hambrick, human brains are wired to retain only the gist of information consumed, creating difficulty in remembering the source of news and whether it is flagged as fake or not. Exposure to fake news could even lead us to “remember” things that never happened. Other research has shown that people are vulnerable to false memories even when they are explicitly warned that they may be exposed to misinformation.  This might undermine efforts by Facebook and others to curb false news on social media, a problem particularly prevalent during the presidential election and certainly something you might want to talk with your children about as part of your ongoing discussion of digital literacy and citizenship.

A Tipping Point

Thomas Friedman suggests in his The New York Times article, Online and Scared, that we may have reached a tipping point in our online interactions. There is an urgent need to recognize that we are all, as Freidman puts it, “connected but no one’s in charge.” As we spend more time online shopping, dating, friendship sustaining, enemy making, learning, teaching and even collecting what we know about the world, Friedman points out that it is even more important for kids to have some grasp of digital civics. Both kids and adults need to come to the realization that the internet is an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information, where everyone needs to bring skepticism and critical thinking to everything they read and basic civic decency to everything they write. It is a tall order, but he feels our very existence may depend on it.

Be a Mentor for Digital Citizenship

Parents and teachers are no doubt working hard to educate children about safe practices with technology, but being a good digital citizen is often more about following the behavior modeled by the adults around you. How can parents be good digital mentors? Devorah Heitner, digital citizenship expert, lays out a set of principles in what she calls the Mentorship Manifesto.

 

Here’s a condensed version:

  • Mentors start from a place of empathy as a path to trust and open communication.

  • Mentors understand that social interactions are more complex now, and that kids need help in building good personal relationships.

  • Mentors recognize that tech savvy is not the same as wisdom. Life experience is a critical factor in the equation.

  • Mentors believe in collaboration over control. Co-creating solutions with kids takes advantage of their creativity and builds trust.

  • Mentors are ready to be accountable. Recognizing and correcting bad technology habits serves as a model for kids.

WWWDOT

Are your kids too trusting of what they find online? It might be good to introduce them to the WWWDOT Framework. WWWDOT in an acronym for the factors to consider when evaluating a website as a possible source of information:

  • Who wrote it and what credentials do they have?
  • Why was it written?
  • When was it written or updated?
  • Does it help meet my needs?
  • Organization of site
  • To-do list for the future

For more information on using the framework see the article Evaluation Websites as Information Sources on the Edutopia website.

Digital Citizenship: Getting Started

Is your school talking about the importance of digital citizenship? Parents can help the discussion by bringing up the topic at PTO or parent council meetings. Parent Teacher Organizations can set up webinars, add resources and articles to email or paper newsletters, and make announcements at school events. Resources like the guide How to Take Digital Citizenship Schoolwide During the 2016-17 School Year from EdSurge can also help administrators, teachers, parents and students understand digital citizenship and the importance of adding the topic to schoolwide discussions.

Teaching Digital Citizenship Sooner

Children today are introduced to technology at a very early age, but most schools don’t tackle the concept of digital literacy until middle school or beyond.

What Your Kids Really Need To Know About Digital Citizenship

Vicki Davis, a blogger for Edutopia, lays out the "9 Key Ps" of digital citizenship in her post for teachers, but the list applies to parents concerned about the issue as well...