When digital citizenship cemented itself into the public consciousness only a few years ago, it definitely had its critics. That remains true even today as we strive to understand what it means and how to practice it in our homes and classrooms. Many digital citizenship myths still have some of us doubting the intrinsic need for its practices. One thing is certain: today, we acknowledge that the digital citizen is a global citizen.
Since the explosion of the Internet in our lives, there has been a need for a definition of checks and balances that will govern our use of it. While it certainly can’t be a governing set of laws that’s really enforceable, digital citizenship is still a framework for model behavior in all online environments and scenarios. We take these mindsets and codes of behavior with us into everything we do and everyone we meet in the world outside technology. That’s what makes the digital citizen a global one.
What is it that lets digital citizenship myths continue to persist in our minds? Do we fear what we don’t understand? Perhaps, but if that’s the case, then we can educate ourselves and our children properly to gain understanding and ultimately conquer that fear. That’s what we want to do here with the 6 following digital citizenship myths. Let’s try and debunk them as best we can for both your and your learners’ peace of mind.
Digital Citizenship Myth 1: Flavour of the Week
Myth: Digital citizenship is just another passing fad, or worse, only a buzzword.
Fact: Digital citizenship is a way of thinking and acting globally that protects you and others.
The Internet is here to stay, and it will continue to weave itself into the remotest areas of the world. As such, digital citizens must educate themselves and others in best Internet practices. Whatever you want to call it—digital responsibility or digital safety—we stand at the brink of a fascinating time.
Imagine if world communities could come together and decide how the Internet will affect us, or how we will affect the Internet, and reach a harmonious conclusion beneficial for all. Digital citizenship is a movement of people working together symbiotically to define how this global society can function compassionately and constructively in a digital world.
Digital Citizenship Myth 2: Manners Matter, but What Else?
Myth: Digital citizenship is just about manners.
Fact: Digital citizenship is a mindset and a way of living in a changing world.
Sure, how we treat each other and behave online is important, and that’s a part it. It’s equally a commonsense a practice in both the real and virtual world. But to understand how digital citizenship extends beyond this, all we need to do here is to take a look at the word “citizen.”
It’s clear that being a good citizen is about being safe, respectful, and responsible. We need such citizens as much in the virtual world as we do in the real one. It’s also about engaging in the Fluencies—Solution Fluency, Information Fluency, Creativity Fluency, Media Fluency, and Collaboration Fluency. You’ll find that practicing Essential Fluencies skills encompasses how to be both a digital and global citizen in the truest sense of these words.
Digital Citizenship Myth 3: Leave It to Schools
Myth: Teaching digital citizenship is the responsibility of schools.
Fact: Parents, teachers, and peers all have a stake in digital citizenship responsibility.
The themes of digital citizenship are safety, respect, and responsibility. These can be taught to young children as soon as or before they get their first login/password. Schools are certainly a great place to start. However, parents are also beginning the process at home, where kids are sometimes online the most.
Of course, as schools get stocked with more and more technological tools, they become environments where good digital citizenship practice is a must. It’s not unreasonable for us to assume that a learner that has an acceptable awareness of digital citizenship would want to model that behavior for friends and classmates and encourage it across the whole school. In a world where digital media is in the hands of students who care about what matters, one voice can easily become many.
Digital Citizenship Myth 4: It’s an “IT” Thing
Myth: Digital citizenship is for technologically-connected schools and tech-savvy teachers.
Fact: The principles of digital citizenship apply to more than just technology.
Citizenship is already being taught in the form of civics classes, history classes, and social studies classes all the way down to simple lessons on behavior at the most elementary level. What would complete the circle of these much-needed classes is a program to prepare them for their future. Even if a school may be disadvantaged or cut off from technology, it doesn’t mean those children will grow up not needing guidance on its use later on.
In this OLPC experiment, children were given tablet technology without teachers and very quickly were able to figure out how to use them and, more importantly, how to alter their functionality.
As we said earlier, this is an exciting time of fluctuation and discovery. It is not to be feared, but to be met with digital citizens collaborating, discussing, and creating solutions that will affect the next generation of digital natives.
Digital Citizenship Myth 5: They’ll Never Get It
Myth: Digital citizenship is complicated and hard for young kids to understand.
Fact: Digital citizenship can be understood by all ages if we teach it right.
Kids of all ages are smart and insightful, and the truth is they want to learn. It’s up to us as educators and parents to find the best ways to do that for specific age groups and learning styles.
Digital Citizenship Myth 6: They’ve Already Got It
Myth: Kids know technology, so by default, they must know about digital citizenship.
Fact: Most kids need guidance on how to be safe and responsible in online environments.
We don’t subscribe to the idea that the Internet is a dark and perilous world we must shield our kids from. In fact, the Web can be a place of learning and discovery in the same way the average library can. But can we not agree that there are even books in any library that we wouldn’t want our kids to be reading at certain ages?
The fact remains that there can be dangerous places on the Internet, and we can also do dangerous things ourselves without even being aware of it. That’s where a good digital citizenship program comes in. Awareness is the key to keeping our young ones safe and secure online.
For example, banning our kids from social media won’t necessarily keep them safe. However, educating them on how to post a status update in a safe way that protects their private information, or how to choose respectful online names and photos to upload, will do two things. First, awareness and education will keep them safe. Second, it will increase their chances of employability, and acceptability to other schools and universities, if their online profiles are respectable.
How to Raise Digital Natives
We’d like to leave you with this TED Ed video featuring Dr. Devorah Heitner, the author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. She is also the founder and director of Raising Digital Natives, a resource for parents and schools seeking to help children thrive in the digital world.
- The Middle School Digital Citizenship Quiz for Building Better Citizens
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Teaching Digital Citizenship
- 7 Easy Ways of Encouraging Digital Citizenship in Your Classroom