Building Digital Citizens: The role of schools in shaping students’ online identities

Schools should play a significant role in supporting students in the development of their digital identities by providing them with education and resources on responsible and safe online behavior, digital citizenship, and media literacy. This includes teaching students about the potential risks and consequences of their online actions, such as cyberbullying, online privacy, and digital security, as well as the benefits of positive digital engagement, such as communication, collaboration, and self-expression. Additionally, schools should model positive digital behavior and have policies in place that promote safe and responsible use of technology.

Safe Online Behavior

An article from Common Sense Media highlight 9 basics that parents can share with their children, which can easily be worked into a classroom setting.

Digital Citizenship

One thing that schools can help students is how to create a .

So what are some things students should know, and what are some things we can teach them?

  1. Online Privacy and Security: Understanding the importance of protecting personal information online, such as passwords, addresses, and credit card numbers, and the ways to keep them secure.  As Jeff mentioned on Discord, his school division, as well as mine, have been having staff complete modules on cybersecurity.
  2. Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: Recognizing the harmful effects of cyberbullying and harassment and knowing how to report and address these incidents.  Bell Let’s Talk was just last month, and Pink Shirt Day is coming up next week, where as educators, we can bring light to situations such
    Screenshot of a fake LeBron James account after Twitter allowed users to buy a verified checkmark.

    as bullying and the issues they can create, and how we can help.

  3. Digital Footprint: Knowing how to manage one’s digital reputation and the impact that online actions can have on future opportunities, such as college admissions or job applications.
  4. Digital Etiquette and Respect: Understanding the importance of respectful and responsible online communication and behavior, including avoiding hate speech and plagiarism.
  5. Media Literacy: Knowing how to critically evaluate online information and sources, including the ability to identify fake news and propaganda.  This has been a growing issue, since events from the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, to the events after Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
  6. Copyright and Intellectual Property: Understanding the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use and sharing of online content, including the proper use of images, music, and videos.  Google classroom has a handy add-on, that allows checking work for plagerism.  In middle years, students are developing researching skills, and when presenting their findings, this is a major concern.

Where do we go from here?

Identifying and addressing the issues are step number one as educators.  We need to know what we are going to talk about with the students, so we need to understand how they are using technology.  School divisions create accounts on Microsoft and Google, that students use from early on, where they are just learning the basics, to graduation.  While these are temporary, we need to promote proper use, as they will be continue using technology, and creating new accounts once they are finished passing through our classrooms.

But we also need to be aware of what technology and apps they use outside of school, and address the concerns and issues that could arise from these.  New apps and fads come into our schools and students lives faster than many of us are aware of.  First was Snapchat, then TikTok, in the summer was BeReal.  Who knows what the latest craze is, but this is something we should find out, and teach the students how to use it appropriately, and what are the possible dangers.

We need to lead by example.  I’m sure many of us in the education field maintain a good digital footprint and etiquette.  How did we learn this?  Many of us grew up as the internet was developing, from the dial-up modem and single computer in the house, to the handheld devices of today.  We have obviously learned lessons throughout this time, and it is now our turn to pass it along to our students.

1 Comment:

  1. Bart Mihalicz

    Yes, Brendon, there is much that schools can do to attempt to shape the digital identity of students, and you have covered many of them in your post this week. Two things in particular jumped out at me as where I predict the true change will lie – educators’ awareness of current and emerging technology trends and apps that students are using outside of school and educators leading by example in maintaining a good digital footprint and etiquette. As the composition of staffs become more Gen Z heavy, students will have teachers who are digital residents leading the way rather than digital visitors. I know that I have been trying my best to try to keep in the know regarding technology, but at times it feels overwhelming – and I am a willing participant! It was when asking my 10 year old son about online things that I realized that I truly am a tourist in the digital world!

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