I recently co hosted, with my Ed Tech Team, a parent information session on “Making the Most of Your Child’s Screentime”. Many of the parents eagerly attended hoping we would provide the answer to the million dollar question, “How do I keep my kids safe online?”. They attentively listened for the steps on how to set up an impenetrable wall around their children that would forever protect them from all the evils of the online world.
During the session, my role was to discuss different controls parents can set up, such as firewalls, parental controls and IOS restrictions. A few parents might have been a bit disappointed when I mentioned that if their child was in Grade 5 or higher, it wouldn’t be long before they could break many settings. I didn’t want to give them a false sense of security by thinking the settings would a solve all problems. Through the entire session, I reminded parents the best security feature they had was the relationship with their children and the importance of educating them. I used the example, “You don’t typically hold their child’s hand while he/she crosses the street until they are 21 but instead teach them how to cross safely on their own”. The same thinking needs to be applied to being online. It’s almost a guarantee that children will encounter inappropriate material and/or conversations online at sometime so they need to be educated.
As the Ed Tech Coach, I try to go into each class a the beginning of the year to discuss how technology is used in school. We talk about what technology is, why it is used at school and what is appropriate use. This is a great time to talk about Digital Citizenship, but, it is not the only time. I also go into classes to team teach a variety of digital citizenhip units with the teachers. Great videos and activities can be found on sites such as Flocabulary and Common Sense Media can provide lesson activities. However, I think the most effective way to teach digital citizehip is when it is relavate which can often mean when someone has used it inappropriately.
Teachers are also encouraged to teach digital citizenship with their classes as needed. The teachers at my currently school do an excellent job utilizing the teachable moments the arise from day to day about screen time, appropriate use and online behavior. The Grade 3 students have a year long Digital Citizenship unit which is continually revisited while working through the other yearly units.
Students can also play a part in teaching digital citizehip by acting appropriately. I often hear students remind each other about logging out of accounts, using appropriate search engines and finding balance. One of the key agreements for all students who join the Lunch Time Tech Club, is that they are the role models for their peers. They need to demonstrate the appropriate use of devices, how to search, communitcation and stay balanced. In the new year, students will be encouraged to create media on digital citizenship which will be played in the cafeteria during lunchtime.
Is digital citizenship being taken seriously? Students see digital citizenship as just another element/environment where they live. They don’t know of a life without it so they are learning to be safe just as they are in the natural environments. Some students take their behavior a little more seriously than others, just as they would on the playground, in the classroom or at home. It is just another environment to them. Adults are the ones who are trying to adjust and assimilate safely into the visual world.