Technological advances radically altered education. Gone are the days of scouring libraries for hours, as information is at students’ fingertips in mere seconds. The COVID-19 pandemic moved technology to a central role in the classroom, a change not likely to end once the pandemic is over. Yet with the internet being so accessible and unguarded, students can easily encounter false information and dangerous activity. Therefore, schools should teach digital citizenship to show students how to use technology responsibly and to keep them safe.

What Is Digital Citizenship?

Digital citizenship involves using any digital technology responsibly on all social levels. Good digital citizenship requires understanding internet safety and how to appropriately connect online. Lapses in digital citizenship can result in cyberbullying and higher chances of internet abuse. Examples of good digital citizenship include being respectful to others online and avoiding risky digital behavior. The recent rise in distance and hybrid learning makes digital citizenship all the more important.

How Are Students Interacting with the Digital World?

Teens spend an average of seven hours per day on media and social networking apps. Those hours do not include homework-related use. 53% of children have their own smartphone by age eleven. And by the time they are twelve, that percentage reaches 70%. As a response, some apps have instituted age restrictions. However, students can easily find their way around these rules. Of course, spending more time online means students are more likely to encounter online dangers such as cyberbullies and predators. In order to ensure student safety, schools must address these dangers.

The Internet: A Dangerous Place

The internet encapsulates such a wide variety of information and experiences that it is difficult to control. Online predators take advantage of this, often using a child’s innocence to their advantage. There are reportedly 500,000 predators online every single day, many of whom target their victims through social media and chatrooms. Other dangers include cyberbullying and phishing scams. 36.5% of students report being cyberbullied, and 87% of students report witnessing cyberbullying. A student or child may not be able to recognize a phishing scam and give away personal information. To combat these dangers, schools should teach digital citizenship. 

Ways to Implement Digital Citizenship

A variety of programs and creative teaching techniques can help teachers explain digital citizenship. Social-emotional learning, including teaching empathy, can help a student understand the person behind a computer screen. A student should also be able to recognize a fishy website or illegitimate resource. Overall, students need to be able to understand their responsibilities and never share information unless instructed by an adult. Screen monitoring software, like LearnSafe, can help teach digital citizenship by making students more aware of their behavior online. LearnSafe also protects students by detecting incidents of cyberbullying and predatory grooming. Additionally, LearnSafe detects mentions of suicide and self-harm, allowing schools to get students the help that they need. By condoning digital citizenship in schools, we can increase overall digital safety for everyone. 


Text by Kassie Roberts


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