It is a challenge in our world today to keep our students and children from being exposed to the malevolence that is often present on social media platforms. Everywhere they look, there is someone posting images or comments that might be inappropriate, rude, or hurtful. Even some of the most prominent figures in our society can be seen conducting themselves in less than admirable fashions online from time to time. Since it’s not as simple as deleting every bad or questionable thing on the internet before our students see (or post) it, what are we to do?
The most sensible solution is to teach our students how to be good citizens of the digital world. Craig Badura, an educator from Aurora, Nebraska, offers a fun tool to help us introduce the concept of digital citizenship in our classrooms and emphasize its importance. On his blog, COMFORTABLY 2.0, Mr. Badura explains exactly what is needed to form The Digital Citizenship Survival Kit: a padlock, toothbrush, permanent marker, and toothpaste. While these items may at first seem unrelated and somewhat silly, they are perfect symbols of everything we should be keeping in mind as users of the digital world. The padlock reminds us that we should always keep all of our accounts locked up with passwords. Just like the toothbrush, passwords are also something that shouldn’t be shared with anyone other than the person they belong to. The permanent marker and toothpaste represent that everything you share and do on the internet is there to stay. Even if you delete it, it is extremely difficult to take it back completely, as part of that footprint more than likely still exists somewhere else.
It is crucial that we take these steps as teachers to inform our students about the importance of conducting ourselves in a kind and responsible way. For many of our students, this may be the first time they have been asked to stop and think about what they are posting or doing on the internet. Teaching digital citizenship is also a factor in preventing cyberbullying. Antibullying Advocate, Paula Green shares that 45% of children have experienced bullying online and a whopping 70% have witnessed it. Even though so many of our students have first-hand experience with cyberbullying, only 2 out of 10 will report it to a parent or teacher.
As classroom teachers, we have the opportunity to reach out to these kids before something bad happens. We get the privilege of being role models for our students and it is our responsibility to both model appropriate online behavior and create a positive atmosphere for our students to learn and grow in. Katherine Sokolowski provided some wonderful insight as to how we can do this in her blog, Read, Write, Reflect: Living Our Lives Online. She reminds us that our actions speak louder than our words and it is our job to teach our students to be kind, caring, and accepting of others, both in class and online.
As new technology continues to be created and makes its way into the classroom, it will be crucial that we also learn right along with our students. If we devote ourselves to being lifelong learners and advocates for digital citizenship, we may begin to see some positive changes in the digital world we are living in.