Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 are beginning to discuss digital citizenship and what it means to be safe and smart online. (Grades K , 1, and 2 will start these lessons on this topic soon! Material will be presented in a developmentally appropriate way.) We are discussing things like digital footprints, cyber bullying, and what type of information is safe (or not) to share online. The students really get into these lessons and they always want to share stories about their favorite things to do online.
We talk about our digital footprints (also called digital tattoos) - the information about us that exists on the Internet as a result of our online activity. Anything we do online can potentially be permanent! There forever! Things we put online or places we go online are NOT private! Everything that happens online can be tracked! We discuss privacy settings, however companies like Google or Instagram can still view our activity. So we MUST make smart choices so that we can be proud of and protect our digital footprints. We also discuss how our actions may be impacting someone else's footprints. Are we affecting the footprints of others positively or negatively? This is so important! We don't want to be responsible for someone else having a negative digital footprint.
We talk about safe information to share versus unsafe information. Sharing things like interests, hobbies, and your screen name are probably OK, but sharing detailed information like full names, birth dates, addresses, or unkind information about others is NEVER OK. The students know that they need to ask their parents before they ever share information online. There are so many different scenarios about why or where we would share information online. Are they signing up for a MineCraft account? Playing XBox Live? Following strangers on Instagram? Texting a friend? Talk to your child about what they are doing online and make sure they know what exactly is OK for them to share with others.
Lastly we address cyber bullying. Prior lessons taught us that bullying is defined as when someone keeps being mean to someone else on purpose and the person it's happening to hasn't been able to make it stop. We recognize cyber bullying the same way we would recognize any other form of bullying, but cyber bullying happens online using electronic technology. The following can be considered cyber bullying:
Sending mean chat, text, or email messages.
Creating mean websites or web pages.
Posting embarrassing or mean messages or comments about someone else online.
We learn that cyber bullying can be just as harmful as other types of bullying. In some cases it can be even more harmful because the hurtful material can be spread to more people at a much faster rate. And because students have access to technology at home there is often no way to get away from the cyber bullying.
Students learn that if they are experiencing cyber bullying, they need to STOP using the technology and report to an adult. Students are often afraid to report that they are being cyber bullied in fear of their technology being taken away. I reassure students often that it is more important to get help from a grownup and stay offline for a little while as opposed to dealing with cyber bullying alone. You can help by reviewing this with your child and creating an action plan in the event they ever become the target of or witness to cyber bullying. Let them know whether their computer or phone usage will be restricted and how you might plan to handle cyber bullying issues.
One of the best websites for parents is CommonSenseMedia.org. I use the Educator's tab on this site often to plan my lessons on digital citizenship. The site offers reviews of the latest movies, video games, books - any type of media that kids of all ages might be accessing. Please check it out! Below are some videos from Common Sense Media that you might find interesting.
Cyber Bullying Prevention Tips for Kids:
Internet Safety Tips for Kids:
Online Identity and Kids:
Rules of the Road for Parents in the Digital Age: