Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Developing Digital Citizens

We teach our children about having good manners by reminding them to say please and thank you. We teach them to be kind and respectful to others. We teach them that it’s not what we say, but how we say it that can affect the message being conveyed. We help our children work through the ups and downs of developing friendships. We keep them safe by reminding them to put on their seatbelts when we are in the car and only let them go to the homes of others that we know and are comfortable with. We believe that it takes a village to raise our children, but have you noticed that your child’s village has spilled over into the digital community? Do you know who is in this village? Do you know what your child is posting online and to whom? Do you know what trail of information your child is leaving behind? Do you know that once something is posted online, it never goes away? You are very much a part of your child’s real world, but are you also a part of your child’s digital world? If not, you should be.

Most adults did not grow up with technology and are often referred to as digital immigrants because we can remember the days of no computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. Today’s children on the other hand can’t imagine a world without this technology. They do not fear it and embrace every opportunity to use it for communication, entertainment and information. There is no doubt that technology is a powerful tool, but in the words of Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Our students may be growing up in a world of technology, but that doesn’t mean that they have the life skills to effectively and responsibly use it. Technology is a great tool for learning, conducting research, and communicating. Unfortunately, however, we often hear how students use digital tools inappropriately for plagiarizing, cyberbullying, cheating, sexting, oversharing personal information, and meeting online strangers in person. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to train and guide them on how technology fits into their lives. They need to learn that decisions they make online today can have long-term implications tomorrow. We want our students to be safe and to be positive members of the digital community, but they aren’t going to get there by themselves. We need to take an active role in their digital life by being aware of what they’re doing online, monitoring their online activities, and most importantly serving as positive role models.

Have you ever Googled yourself before? If not, you might be surprised to see what your virtual identity looks like because everything you do online is collected into a digital dossier, otherwise known as your digital footprint. This footprint is traceable by others and is virtually impossible to eliminate.  Our students must become aware of their digital identity, so that they can learn how to manage and develop it into a positive one. It is imperative that they keep themselves and their personal information safe as the lines between the digital and real world have become blurred.

Our digital reality is that technology is very much a part of all our lives and it is here to stay.  For our students, they are interacting digitally more and more everyday with content, one another, and in various communities. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are but a few of the tools they are using to conduct their interactions. The tools they use tomorrow may change, but what won’t change is the need for our students to be educated on digital responsibility, citizenship and creating a positive online footprint. Together as parents, teachers and community members, we must be the village that works together to raise our students into digital leaders.

For additional information and resources, please visit http://digitrail.weebly.com.