The world today is becoming increasingly digital. It is a time where employers look up candidates online, Social Media is driving influential movements and the answer to most questions is ‘let’s google it!’. Moreover, technology is connecting us with people from all corners of the planet creating a large community of digital citizens. Therefore, it has become important to teach children not only how to use technology, but also digital citizenship. Let’s dive deeper and explore how we can support our youngest citizens to thrive in the digital age.
What is digital citizenship?
Digital citizenship is our ability to use digital technology and media in safe, responsible and effective ways. It is how we sustain our membership within the digital world, while enjoying the many benefits it has to offer. This involves –
- Our self-identity or digital presence online and offline
- The way we interact digitally with content and others
- Our knowledge on various technologies, other users and the online culture
- The way we consume and contribute in the digital environment
Therefore, our digital citizenship is the combination of our habits, actions and usage that influences the digital content and communities. Thus, in order to be responsible digital citizens we need to adapt habits that strengthen and improve the digital world.
Why children should be taught digital citizenship?
Children use digital technologies for a variety of purposes including learning, playing, entertainment and communicating with friends. Just as it’s impossible to opt out of being a citizen of Earth, digital citizenship has also become a mandatory part of present day life.
Moreover, being active digital citizens enable kids to understand how the world works and find their place in life. However, similar to the real world, the digital world also has its own complexities and challenges. It is not enough to equip kids with the skills needed to put modern technology to good use. They also must be guided to protect their safety, support their wellbeing and develop responsible behaviours within virtual environments. Thus, by learning about digital citizenship and curating their digital presence children can use their daily digital interactions as assets for their future.
Digital skills every child should know
Just as numeracy and ability to read, digital skills have become a core literacy in today’s world. There are many skills we can learn to successfully face the challenges and meet the demands of digital life. Here are 8 areas in which children should develop their social, emotional and cognitive abilities to become responsible citizens of the digital world.
1. Digital identity
This is how we create and manage our identity both online and offline. It requires knowing how to maintain your integrity, and being aware of short and long term effects of your actions in the digital world.
2. Digital rights
This is your capacity to understand and stand up for the conditions needed to support your overall digital-wellbeing. It particularly involves knowing how to protect your own and other’s privacy when you share information. Furthermore, it includes developing the ability to voice your own opinions and learning how to manage hurtful comments directed at you.
3. Digital literacy
Digital literacy is the ability to search, assess, use, share and create content within the digital world. This particularly involves critical thinking and being able to distinguish fake news from the reality. Moreover, it also includes choosing quality content, relying on trustworthy contacts and making smart choices online.
4. Digital communication
This is how we interact and work together with other users through digital technologies and media. It involves being aware of and managing the real life impacts our communications generate, as well as the digital footprint they leave behind.
5. Digital emotional intelligence
A key part of digital citizenship is our ability to empathize towards the needs and feelings of others within the digital community. It’s often too easy to forget the real people existing behind virtual profiles and disconnect from them emotionally. Thus, the ability to build healthy relationships with others online is an important skill.
6. Digital security
The digital world also carries challenges to our security which we need to guard ourselves against. Thus, this demands our ability to prepare for potential security threats by using suitable tools and practices, such as creating strong passwords.
7. Digital safety
Unfortunately some people within the digital community misuse its features to conduct wrongful acts such as cyberbullying and radicalization. Moreover, there are also plenty of bad content available depicting violence, obscenities and so forth. Thus, a key part of responsible digital citizenship is knowing how to avoid and combat such safety risks.
8. Digital use
Digital use is one of the most widely spoken and debated aspects of digital citizenship. The most important element of it is the ability to strike a healthy balance between screen time and everyday life. Moreover, it is crucial to learn how to multitask and when not to multitask, avoiding risky behaviour such as digital media engagement while driving.
Plan for teaching digital citizenship
The thought of preparing children for the digital world maybe daunting. However, with a few simple steps taken at home and school it’s possible to empower kids to become active and responsible digital citizens from the very start. First and foremost guide children to make smart, quality and age appropriate choices when interacting with digital content. Remember, just as we would help them select a movie or a book, the same rules apply here. Encourage them to be critical and question everything they encounter.
Remind them to be kind and polite. Insist on sharing little to no personal information online without checking with you first. Just as you wouldn’t talk to strangers on the street, tell them to avoid interacting with strangers online. Enable them to explore and create, specifically using technology that supports pedagogy and learning goals. Tell them if they have any doubts or are feeling unsafe to reach out to an adult they trust in the real world such as their parents or a teacher. Most importantly, make sure they have a fun and an exhilarating experience.
Children today are already heavily engaged in the digital world. This brings teaching them digital citizenship from the to-do-list to a top priority. It is our role to provide them the skills to use digital technology and media in a safe, responsible and effective manner. This way we can support their digital wellbeing and positively impact how they are shaping tomorrow’s world.
- 8 Digital Skills We Must Teach Our Children by Yuhyun Park Chair, infollutionZERO Foundation
- 8 digital life skills all children need – and a plan for teaching them by Yuhyun Park Chair, infollutionZERO Foundation
- How To Help Children Build A Positive Presence Online by Rachel Buchanan, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle
- Take Action for Kids’ Digital Well-Being By Elizabeth Galicia
- Time To Stop Bracing And Start Embracing Technology For Kids by Sanna Lukander, CEO of Fun Academy
Learn more about digital citizenship and other life skills enhanced by the Fun Learning approach.