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Digital Citizenship Among Students: It Takes a Village

Kip Glazer
 | Jul 19, 2017
Digital Citizenship

As a mother, teacher, and administrator in charge of student discipline and safety, I cannot emphasize enough about the importance of digital citizenship among young people. I already wrote a post about the importance of personal branding. I wrote another post about the digital natives myth. This time, in light of the Harvard’s recent decision to rescind admissions offers to 10 freshmen, I want to talk about what adults can do to protect children from themselves.

It surprises me that so many parents I work with tell me that they have no idea what social media accounts their children have. Having been a high school teacher for over a decade, I have seen so many of my students post and share inappropriate things online. Many of them have told me that their parents had no idea.

I recommend that the parents learn what type of social media tools their children use. Just as you would want to know who your children’s friends are if they were to physically visit your home, you would want to know who your children are communicating with in the cyber space. Consider the case of Conrad Roy III (an 18-year-old who committed suicide after receiving texts from his girlfriend urging him to do so) and Michelle Carter (the girlfriend who sent the offending texts and is now convicted of involuntary manslaughter).This tragedy demonstrates the destructive power of words, as well as the need for parents and educators to maintain an open dialogue with young people about their digital presence.  

I also encourage parents to teach their children what to post and what not to post. For example, I taught my children that they shouldn’t post anything online unless they are okay with it being on the homepage of Yahoo, Bing, or CNN. I ask them to consider whether the post promotes a positive and professional self-image. We talked about how every post contributes to a narrative of their own creation.

Finally, I ask the parents to have a serious conversation about online humor. I taught my children that the humor doesn’t quite translate as easily on Twitter or Facebook as it does in-person. I showed them how I could take a screenshot of something they posted and forward something to another person. I talked about the possibility of someone starting an online conversation without them while using their own words against them. I asked them how defenseless they would feel if what they thought was funny was misinterpreted and misconstrued by others. I told my children over and over again that the freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee the freedom from consequence.

So what can teachers and administrators do? First of all, we can educate ourselves better. We need to make sure we are setting good examples when using social media accounts. We can also educate parents about the importance of digital citizenship and social media literacy. I know of several districts that hold parent education nights on such topics, which is a great way for schools to partner with the community to keep our students safe. We can encourage all parents to establish common sense rules in their homes when it comes to digital device use. Finally, we can continue to help our students to take control over their personal digital brand

Kip GlazerKip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program. Her Purposeful Tech column looks at how classroom teachers can think critically about today's instructional technologies.

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