Digital Citizenship: An Important Conversation

Creative Commons Image: GSCSNJ (Flickr)

Digital Citizenship is an important conversation in District 109. While teachers take a large role in guiding students in being responsible digital citizens, the partnership with our parent community is extremely important to ensure that all students have opportunities to practice their online skills at home. It’s similar to when children learn to read, swim, and drive. The instructors are so important in imparting the skills, but parents provide much needed guidance and support as students practice navigating a very new world of online learning experiences.

Parents help foster digital citizenship in their children by laying important foundation at home. Establishing family rules that reflect their own values is an important first step in letting children know what families expect when their children interact online. Additionally, we encourage parents to stay positively engaged in their child’s online activity and support the good choices that they make online such as reporting an inappropriate website or asking for permission before signing up for a new web account or gaming site.

Parents also can be active guides to help children with web searching, especially in the primary grades. Just as parents don’t allow young children to go to the shopping mall without adult supervision, students should not be let to roam free on the world wide web until they have reached a certain age and proven that they have the skills necessary to make good decisions. By participating in a guided web search with a child, parents foster their child’s critical thinking skills. Asking a few questions while children research on the web can have a strong impact on how children acquire effective research skills. The following questions can help teach them how to evaluate information on a website:

  • Who wrote this?
  • Is this a safe website? How do you know?
  • How does this information compare to other information you have researched?
  • When was the last time this website was updated?
  • Was this website linked from another website that you trust?
  • Are there advertisements on this website that are targeting you?

Parents teach their children at a young age never to talk to strangers; in our new digital world, it is important that children learn basic online safety rules from Mom and Dad. Below are a few suggestions to guide parents in teaching children how to be safe when they are online.

  • Establish some rules about who it is ok to talk to online, especially with so many ways for children to interact with others online.
  • Teach children to always ask for permission before filling out online forms. There are so many different websites asking children to sign up for accounts, so teaching children to ask for permission from Mom or Dad emphasizes that parents should be involved before children provide a website with any personal information.
  • Make sure all children know to talk to a trusted adult if something they see ever makes them feel worried or uncomfortable.
  • Teach children to block, ignore or leave a situation, which is something that most children naturally do on their own.

Online safety and digital citizenship are fundamental skills that we will need to continue emphasizing in our schools, but the partnership from our parents will only make our students’ skillsets stronger. It’s never too late to start the conversation about appropriate online behavior at home and at school. We encourage parents and teachers to continue the dialogue — with their students and children, and with each other — about staying safe and thoughtful when accessing information or interacting with others online.

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