Digital citizenship is when someone uses technology in a positive and responsible way (Ribble, 2015). It is crucial that we not only understand what digital citizenship is but the importance of teaching students about this concept. For students to have a better understanding of what digital citizenship is, they can not completely rely on receiving this information at home. Parents may not be tech savvy enough to understand the complexity of updated apps, software or devices or they may not have any access to online devices. We can not assume that students are learning digital citizenship from their parents (Curan, 2012). To prepare our students to become responsible citizens, it is critical that we educate them about the importance of digital citizenship within the confines of the classroom.
As a community of parents, teachers, and students we need to change the way we view technology for the safety of students. Many schools attempt to separate technology use at home versus technology use at school (Ohler, 2012). The reason for this division is some educators are concerned that allowing students access to technology causes a distraction from their learning. However, when technology is eliminated in schools, students are left unprepared with how to handle online social situations appropriately. When schools simply block websites or disallow technology use, this is just a way to respond to the symptom, not addressing the underlying issue. It is important to involve schools and the community in developing programs to teach students digital citizenship. This includes providing opportunities for students and adults to have discussions and conversations regarding technology in a safe environment. Teaching students how to responsibly use technology during school hours will provide a proactive solution to teaching digital citizenship. Advancements in technology have provided students with unlimited access to the distribution of information, social media, videos, music and sharing pictures, this has required updated laws to protect citizen’s rights (Ribble, 2015). Schools are now responsible for student’s online behavior both during school and outside of school. This has placed pressure on schools to take action and educate students on appropriate behavior with regards to technology. One example of addressing this issue is the iCitizen project, which was initially created to address the issue of cyber-bullying (Curran, 2012). This project provided communication through social media for students to discuss the issue of cyber-bullying. Through social media, students defined digital citizenship and had effective conversations on how to be proactive, which positively transformed students attitudes. Students discovered that developing empathy was the most effective response to counteract bullying instead of reacting after the fact. Schools not only have the means necessary to teach digital citizenship but the responsibility to provide students with a needed education for students to thrive online.
In conclusion, teaching student’s digital citizenship is not only the ethical thing to do but a way to protect their safety. Schools need to be proactive in teaching students the skills necessary to be productive and responsible citizens online. If we depend solely on parents to teach digital citizenship we are leaving our students vulnerable to cyber-bullying, and inappropriate exposure to technology. It is necessary for schools to take an active role in providing an opportunity for teachers to explain and model digital citizenship effectively.
Curran, M. (2012, June). iCitizen: Are you a socially responsible digital citizen. Paper presented at the International Society for Technology Education Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX. Retrieved from http://www.gonevirtual.org/uploads/6/0/8/6/6086473/icitizen_iste12_paper.pdf Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 77(8), 14-17. (PDF: Ohler_Digital_citizenship_means_character_education_2012.pdf) Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools – Third edition. Eugen: International Society for Technology in Education.