From a very young age we are all being taught how to interact with others, how to act appropriately in certain social situations, and to respect everyone. In other words, all kids are taught how to be a good citizen: of their communities, of their countries, of the world.
- Don't speak with your mouth full!
- Don't throw your garbage on the street!
- Don't stare at people!
- Don't eavesdrop!
- Don't just take things that are not yours!
I'm pretty sure all kids in your class are already familiar with these societal norms, as they are the first lessons on what it takes to be a respectful and responsible member of a community.
From basic class behavior in kindergarten, to learning about the law — and the consequences of breaking it — the number of written and unwritten rules add up as we grow up. We all need to respect the rules if we want to live peacefully and care-free in our communities.
The digital community
With the fast and always expanding internet, we need to take into consideration a new community: the digital community, or the virtual community. It's the cyberspace that gets bigger and bigger every second. It isn't restrained by time, nor distance. It's bigger than your school, your neighborhood, or your state; it's a worldwide community.
The greatest advantage is that we can communicate and share ideas, thoughts and information with the whole world, or even create our own communities based on interests, passions, education, and so on. The computer/phone screen is the portal to a whole new world of endless sources of knowledge, information, and people.
Isn’t that the greatest thing ever? When you were raised in a small town like I have, trust me, the internet opens the gate to Wonderland.
But can we really do whatever we want here? Talk to whoever we want? Share anything? Act like no one's watching? The digital world is made up of the digital lives of real people. This means that strangers, bullies, and generally bad people also have their place in this limitless community.
The digital community is as safe as each of us make it. The rules about being a good citizen apply to cyberspace as well. Everyone needs to be educated on these rules, no matter their age. The sooner, the better.
If your students use an online LMS for school activities, or if you at least ask them to use the internet to find learning resources for writing a paper, they need to know what it takes to be a good digital citizen.
They need to learn at least the basics:
The CPR approach to digital citizenship
Before they log on, whether they are at school or not, students should do the CPR rehearsal! No, I'm not talking about the life-saving technique – that’s for other situations. This is about the communicate-protect-respect approach.
Print it, learn it by heart, share it with your students, and encourage them to share it with anyone who uses the internet:
COMMUNICATE responsibly and kindly with others. Think before you write, proofread before you hit the send button, and always keep in mind that behind the other screen is another human being. Words can be sharper than a knife and written words can be harder to forget.
PROTECT your own and others' private information. Be selective and cautious about sharing private data, pictures, or any sort of personal information. When you take the bus you don’t share your phone number with everyone there. Take the same precaution while browsing the internet. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn't want your mother to see it, just don't share it.
RESPECT each other’s ideas and opinions. We all have a different background, come from different cultures and have different interests. We will never think alike 100%, and we don’t have to. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. You don’t have to always see eye to eye, but keep in mind the netiquette before expressing your disagreement.
The CPR approach to digital citizenship is a MUST READ, MUST LEARN, MUST APPLY kind of thing. When should kids start learning it? As soon as they are introduced to a device with an internet connection.
As for any one of us who didn’t really think we needed to learn about digital citizenship, we have to learn it NOW, before opening another browser or social media app.