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Navigating Digital Citizenship

Submitted by jreid on

There is no denying that we are in a digitally-driven world. Not only is it evident with society’s overall use of social media and now AI, I see it clearly on a daily basis with students. At school dismissal time, it is common to see students with their cell phones out, checking missed notifications and getting caught up on the posts of the day. They are taking photos and videos of each other, texting parents and friends, and connecting back to their music, games or movies. In our Junior School, they have been without their phones all day thanks to Yondr, so the draw, urge – and maybe even compulsion – to reconnect is strong and real.

As kids become increasingly connected to various platforms, it is essential that we, as educators and parents, guide them in their digital journey. It goes without saying that ensuring our students’ safety and promoting responsible online behaviour are more critical than ever. When considering digital citizenship, Common Sense Media and the T.H.I.N.K. acronym are two resources that we rely on heavily in our work with students and are a good resource for parents as well.

Digital Citizenship: What is it?

Digital citizenship refers to the responsible and ethical use of technology. It encompasses a wide range of behaviours and attitudes that children need to develop in order to thrive in the digital landscape. The Common Sense Media website is a valuable resource for understanding digital citizenship as it offers a wealth of information, from age-appropriate content recommendations to guides on online safety and privacy, tailored to fit the needs of different age groups.

T.H.I.N.K. before you post

One of the key aspects of digital citizenship is responsible online communication. In this digitally-dominant world, parents and educators must work together to support our young people by encouraging, educating and explaining the importance of thinking before they post anything online. This is where the T.H.I.N.K. acronym comes into play.

T.H.I.N.K. refers to:

T – Is it true? Before sharing information, ask if it’s true. False information can spread quickly online and have significant consequences.

H – Is it helpful? Consider whether the content being shared is helpful or constructive. Encourage your child to add value to online conversations.

I – Is it inspiring/inclusive? Inspire positivity by sharing uplifting and motivating content. Are you calling people in rather than calling people out?

N – Is it necessary? Not every thought, idea, comment or photo needs to be posted. Teach your child to discern what is worth sharing and what is best kept offline.

K – Is it kind? Above all, kindness matters. Ensure your child’s online presence and interactions are respectful and considerate.

How can parents help?

Engage in Open Conversations: Promote open conversations with your child about their online experiences. Encourage them to come to you with questions or concerns. Share your expectations for their online behaviour and the consequences of misuse (from both home and school). Establish guidelines that suit your family’s values.

Encourage Critical Thinking: Teach your child to be a critical online thinker. Help them question the credibility of information they encounter. Discuss the dangers of cyberbullying, online privacy and the impact of their digital footprint. A person’s digital footprint can have a lasting impact on their reputation, relationships and employment opportunities (both positive and negative). A poor decision to post a comment made in a split second can damage your child’s digital footprint and follow them into adulthood.

Monitor Screen Time: Easier said than done, I know! However, setting limits on screen time and where devices are seen and not seen (behind closed doors versus in an open space at home) can be key in helping students balance their online and offline lives. Common Sense Media has a number of tools and recommendations for managing screen time effectively.

Stay Informed: Stay informed about the latest online trends, apps and social media platforms. Common Sense Media regularly updates its content to keep parents informed about the digital landscape.

Remember, our collective goal as parents and educators is to foster a healthy and responsible approach to technology, not remove it altogether. Technology is here to stay and, if used appropriately, can actually have a positive impact. Let’s work together to raise and educate responsible digital citizens.