My school was very lucky to have Alec Couros come and present to our parents about raising the “selfie generation“. A lot of what Alec shared with parents is what we see weekly and discuss in ECI832. At the end of the presentation, Alec was ready to take questions. Here is where I really realized how much parents are dependent on the role of educators for teaching digital citizenship.
By Peter Chiapperino: a concert photographer in Lexington, Kentucky (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The questions asked were around screen time limits, wi-fi and device contracts and “to block or not to block” certain social media apps. And Alec responded with exactly what I was thinking as I was listening to these questions: communicate with your child. Everyone seems to think that there is a cookie cutter solution for protecting our children online, but just like in real life, children need to be taught and shown how to be safe and to be aware online. And no two children are exactly the same.
We can direct teachers and parents to sites such as Common Sense Media or Media Smarts to help with teaching about digital citizenship, but parents also have to do their homework about what their children are doing online at home.
Teachers have the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools continuum to help guide their students in the classroom. And with Amy Singh’s wiki project about Digital Citizenship in schools, teachers will have more content to build upon. I’ve been using the continuum resource and what I have learned in both ECI831 and ECI832 to show students in Grades 6-8 what it means to be a digital citizen. I know my presentation will “reach” most students, but I know that their are other students for whom this presentation doesn’t quite meet their needs. But how far can I go in the school’s education of digital citizenship and what is ultimately the parent’s responsibility?
In Lynette Owens article, Why Children Need a Good Digital Community to Become a Good Digital Citizen, she states that the importance of digital citizenship falls on parents, teachers and technology companies. It goes back to the African Proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. In our digital village, all players are key in making sure our children are safe online. But what happens when the village, the parents and the teachers don’t have the skills or understanding to teach it? What if the concept is so new that the learning misses a generation?
Is this what we are experiencing with this generation of teenagers? When we look at what happened to Amanda Todd and the countless other number of teens who have succumb to the online abuse the internet can harness, we realize the gap in digital learning.
When reading the blog post of Jenn Stewart Mitchell about the case of Amanda Todd and the roles that society and parents alike need to play in cases as such, I was drawn to her additions of the comments that she incorporated into the blog about the case. One particular person commented that social media should require higher age restrictions in order to access and use their sites. But that doesn’t deter children. I know many children who have Facebook pages and are no where near 13. What’s worse is that their parents are friends of theirs on Facebook. Parents help create the lie and allow the lie to continue. When such is the case, are age restrictions necessary? Who is held responsible for allowing the minor to have an account? But mostly, are the parents also teaching what is necessary to be a good digital citizen?
In every Grade 6-8 class I have visited these past 2 weeks, I asked how many in the class have a Facebook account. In every class, hands shot up in to the air. When I asked how many play online games against other people, more hands go up in the air. I don’t fear for this generation of social media savvy pre-teens, but I do worry some. I know that I can teach them about digital citizenship, but I can’t monitor their every move. As a teacher, I don’t want to have to follow my students online to see what they are up to.
So what is my role as an educator teaching students about digital citizenship? In my presentation to students, we study the following:
- Content: Being aware that not everything online is true. Follow the rule of 3.
- Copyright/Copyleft: Finding and using properly licensed photos, images, music and videos using Creative Commons.
- Netiquette: Basic how to’s for interacting with others online.
- Identity: We talk about who you are online and what perceptions you leave when online.
- Activism: The good people can do online.
Once the students have this information, it is up to them to do with it what they want. In the classrooms, teachers can be vigilant about the content their students are using when researching and making sure that they are using proper media in their work. But when it comes to netiquette, identity and activism, we can show them the way, but students need to chose that for themselves. In my opinion, this is where parents need to step in and communicate with their children about their activities online.
There is no magic website or app that will do all that for parents. To ensure that their child is safe online, they must know what their children are doing online. Communication is key, as is awareness of what they are using online.