Friday, October 23, 2015

Digital Citizenship Week

GUEST BLOGGER:  Nicole Andresen
Innovative Learning Specialist

Nothing is more important than being safe and secure. This includes online safety. Understanding how to be digitally active in a way that is safe and secure is what Digital Citizenship Week is all about. Digital Citizenship is an important topic, yet we often don’t have the background or knowledge to talk with our kids when they go online. In recognition of  Digital Citizenship Week, and with the help of Common Sense Media and NetSmartz, there are tips and advice to share to protect yourself while online.

Be Safe

The Internet brings great opportunity, but also a great challenge to be safe while online.  It’s no different than walking in a strange city; not only do we have to make sure we are aware of our surroundings and those around us when we walk, but when we surf the web too. 

It’s the same for kids. Sometimes they run into traffic or dart across a street without looking. In the same way, children don't always understand the importance of internet safety. Just as you would coach your children to cross a street safely, coach them about being online. For example: talk with them about keeping private things private, and that once something is on the web, it’s permanent. It is easy to take a few pieces of shared information that may not seem like much and track down the person on the other end of the screen.

  • Younger kids: Get kids to think about safety without scaring them. Don’t share your name, address, school, age, etc. Ask: Why don’t we want strangers to know certain things about us or our family?
  • Older kids: Don’t broadcast your location, send photos to strangers, or share passwords with friends. Ask: What kind of information can be unsafe to share, and what’s fair game?

Be Kind

Instill a sense of empathy into your children. We should always act online the way we are to act with others face to face - and it’s important to teach that to our kids.  

  • Younger kids: Treat others like you want to be treated - and always follow a website’s rules for behavior. Ask: How do you see other kids behaving online? What are some nice things you’ve seen other kids do?
  • Older kids: Post constructive comments, and avoid getting into flame wars with trolls. Ask:What kind of positive behavior do you see online?

Be Responsible

Don’t believe everything you see. Just because it’s online doesn’t make it true and not everybody is who they say they are. Not only do we need to be information literate or competent, but our students do as well. 
  • Younger kids: Teach kids to be detectives. Ask: How can you tell whether something is true online? What are some signs that something might not be true?
  • Older kids: Use reputable sources. Learn to recognize red flags. Ask: How can you tell what’s a reliable source of information? What are some signs something’s a scam?

Think Before You Share

  1. Don’t overshare.
  2. Think before you post.
  3. Make sure you use privacy settings.

Most social media outlets have ways to set your privacy to a safe level. Facebook, for example, will let you set your profile to such a private level that only people you accept as friends are able to see anything that may be posted on your wall.  

  • Younger kids: Help kids understand what sharing something online means. Ask: Who can see what you’re doing or saying online?
  • Older kids: Encourage kids to pause before they act. Ask: What are some questions you can ask yourself before you share something online? Have you ever regretted something you’ve posted or said online?

Digital Reputation and Digital Footprint

This is also the time you should think about your Digital Reputation or Digital Footprint. The information that we all put online leaves a digital trail - and it’s important to teach our children that this trail can be big or small, helpful or hurtful, depending on how we manage it. Your digital reputation is defined by your behaviors in the online environment and by the content you post about yourself and others. Tagged photos, blog posts and social networking interactions will all shape how you are perceived by others online and offline, both now and in the future.  A poor digital reputation can affect your friendships, relationships and even your job prospects, so it is very important that you are aware of what picture you are painting of yourself online and protect your digital reputation today.” -Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner

Be Respectful

Just like bullying situations in a face-to-face setting, bullying also takes place online.  The problem that cyberbullying presents is that sense of anonymity and an opportunity for more participants to join in on the bullying.  What makes cyberbullying different:

  • Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.
  • Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
  • Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.                                                 

Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, embarrassing pictures and videos that are shared, and creation of websites, or fake profiles.  

If someone’s getting bullied or picked on: speak up, report it, or reach out.

  • Younger kids: Make sure kids know they can come to you for help. Teach them how to flag misbehavior. Ask: What would you do if you saw someone being mean online or in a game?
  • Older kids: Give kids tools to use in a crisis. Ask: If someone was being mean to you online, what would you want your friends to do? Do you know how to flag or report bullying on a social network or in a multiplayer game?


These tips are just a small part of what we as adults and our children need to understand when it comes to navigating the web. Be an informed and wise a digital citizen.  Use technology to your advantage, and work with your children and family members to be safe while online.

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