How can I improve my approach to Digital Citizenship with my kids? I want my children to be knowledgeable about the internet and not hide from it in fear nor navigate it blindly. But having said that, it’s embarrassing how little I have actually worked with them on this. Fortunately, they are in a very technologically progressive school district and have learned some safety aspects of navigating the web. It is up to me to fill in the blanks, using Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship as a guide.
My sequential brain soaked up the break down of the elements into stepping stones of learning. We build on prior knowledge as is age appropriate and repeat, repeat, repeat. Just as we continuously discuss with our children appropriate actions, safety concerns, and responsibilities of being a good citizen in real life, so should we when discussing citizenship in the digital world. This will not be a one time lesson, but continuous lessons evolving as they age and repeated until they become second nature. The lessons will provide kids with opportunities to learn digital citizenship skills and just as importantly, opportunities to show their understanding and learning of the skills. Ribble likened the acquiring of Digital Citizenship skills to Driver’s Education stating kids “have to know the rules of the road”, be it the internet highway or real city streets, before we turn them loose. The acquisition for either set of rules begins at a young age with basic, age appropriate lessons that continuously build on one another. For Driver’s Ed even kindergartens can grasp stop signs and seat belt safety, and upper elementary kids understand the basics of operating a car, rules and infractions, and the need for laws. All of this is learned before they even get behind the wheel! In high school they have their first opportunity to drive a car but not without supervision, and practice and testing to ensure their understanding. Finally, they are set free to navigate the roads on their own, learning from experience as they go and still being kept in check by societal and traffic laws. And so this is how I will approach digital citizenship with my children. They will start with learning digital etiquette, understanding the different digital communication options, and digital rights & responsibilities all within a protected environment. We will continue up the ladder of learning with the awareness of everyone who has access to the internet therefore restricting their own, developing searching and processing skills, and identifying larger safety and security issues. Then moving on to crimes & laws, buying & selling online, and physical & psychological well-being of sitting in front of a screen for endless amounts of time. As I look at this plan I realize they have been exposed to some of these elements already just by being around parents who are connected to the digital world and aware of the bad that goes with the good. They have heard about physical & psychological issues of endless gaming, have started to dabble in email and texting with their teachers and parents, have done some searching but not so much processing, and have some idea of who is out there. But none of it is second nature. And so we will continue on, using Ribble’s REPs, practicing in safe environments, and exploring with supervision until they have proven themselves ready to go it alone.
It is time. My kids are at the prime age to begin learning the elements of digital citizenship. And now I have a starting point and road map laid out before me. The question then becomes how do I put it into action with Minecraft, Netflix, and Clash of Clans demanding all their screen time? Sigh.
Northshore School District. 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from http://webold.nsd.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=82446&linkid=nav-menu-container-4-180331
Ribble, M. 2011. Digital Citizenship in Schools. Eugene, OR: ISTE.