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4 Ways You Can Become a Good Digital Citizen

Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:57
Teacher with two students in classroom looking at a tablet

We are living in an age where the Internet has become a part of our daily lives. We use the Internet for many things: research, distant learning, connecting with family/friends, shopping, looking up recipes, and banking, to name a few. While the Internet has definitely made life more efficient, keeping up with its evolution can be difficult and at times overwhelming for everyone, including kids.

Although the Internet has given its users opportunities to connect, it can also unfortunately provide alternative avenues for bullying. Cyberbullying is a major problem amongst young Internet users. According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 10 adults living in a household with children reported a case of cyberbullying against one of the children in the household, and 40% of reported cyberbullying victims in Canada are between 12 to 13 years old. Many cyberbullying cases go unreported, making it difficult to measure the impact cyberbullying truly has on kids.

In turn, we have a responsibility to educate young Internet users on how to create safe online spaces and foster online inclusivity. Furthermore, emphasizing the importance of building healthy on and offline relationships, and demonstrating mutual respect! Here are a few tips to help you demonstrate and teach how to be a good ‘digital citizen’:

  1. Encourage critical thinking skills. Teach students to think about what they do and how they interact with others online. What will they gain (or lose) from posting certain photos or content online? How will their words affect others? What can people assume or interpret from their words? Keep an open dialogue between the class and ensure students feel comfortable speaking about their online activity. If they see something online and are unsure of how to react or if they should react at all, encourage them to ask you or another adult about it.
  2. Connect with your community. Schools networks, organizations such as Kids Help Phone, community centres, and your local police and health departments have an abundance of helpful guidelines that can help you and your kids use the Internet critically, positively, and fairly.
  3. Consult the H&PE curriculum. The H&PE curriculum includes a set of expectations surrounding online behaviour in the Personal Safety and Injury Prevention component of the Healthy Living strand (and through the Living Skills). The Living Skills provides students with the personal, interpersonal, and critical and creative thinking skills needed to retain healthy relationships. Skills such as self-advocacy, conflict resolution, anger management, and decision-making skills, as well as the ability to use assertiveness, resistance, and refusal techniques, are also included and can help students respond safely and effectively online.
  4. Refer to resources for further assistance. Ophea offers several resources that encourage good digital citizenship. CyberCops is a lesson plan for grades 7 and 8 that teaches students how to respond and recognize various online safety issues. Connect[ED] is also a great resource addressing online safety for students in grades 4 to 6. (Both free, bilingual, and available online through Ophea’s Teaching Tools)

It’s not uncommon to see children as young as 7 years old with access to a tablet, computer, or smartphone. Teaching kids the impact of their online decisions is vital -building healthy online communities is just as important as building healthy offline ones!