Teaching How to Be a Good Digital Citizen

woman using a phone

The world has evolved to the point that national barriers are becoming blurrier and blurrier. Our cultures have intermixed with each other and there is even more subculture than ever before. This is all possible thanks to the Internet, the tool that unifies us all. People from different locations can now connect at the snap of a thumb, and it has created a community of sorts.

Just as we are citizens of our countries, the Internet has become a nation of its own with its own citizens and folk. And just as we need to be good citizens and not break any laws, we also need to learn how to behave on the Internet and to properly take part in the virtual community.

While we have grown into the use of the Internet, and as such brought real-life sensibilities into our digital experience, children and students often do not have the real-world experience to properly navigate such a space. This is where Digital Citizenship comes in.

The New Citizen

We can find almost anything and everything on the Internet. Be it an instructional on how to cook using the barest of tools to buying high-quality epoxy floor sealers, or even finding of world history to watching the latest music video- the Internet is an information superhighway. This can be overwhelming to younger ones, and their experiences on the Internet can definitely affect their lives.

And while children born at the turn of the century are more familiar with technology, even to the point of being ‘digital natives’, it doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to use it responsibly. This is where educators and parents come into play, we need to introduce responsible usage of the technology that permeates modern society. We need to impart the values of being a digital citizen and how to act properly. Here are ways you can use to teach how to be a good digital citizen.

Begin With Empathy

using a laptop and a phone

Much like in real life, our interactions and actions online have us interacting and reacting with other people. It’s always good to start from a place of empathy. Especially with the text-based nature of online communication, it’s easy to misunderstand statements. Have your students imagine what they would feel if they were to receive negative comments online- would they feel angry? Would they want to lash out? Have them understand that before they send a comment, they have to ask themself what they’re going to feel if they were to receive such a comment.

Teach Critical Thinking

The Internet is an information superhighway and it empowers people to express their ideas and interpretations. Unfortunately, this also gives avenues for misleading people to spread their lies. With the proliferation of ‘fake news’ and such, it’s important to teach children to have a critical stance on reading dubious news and always check sources before believing an article. Imparting the dangers of easily believing Internet headlines and sketchy articles is important to make them more resistant against those who will try to fool them.

Have Them Understand the Divide

It’s easy to assume that most people have a computer or laptop, and a smartphone to access the Internet, but the truth is far harsher. A large part of the globe still do not have access to the Internet, and a large percentage of areas that do have access have a terrible connection. The infrastructure for good Internet and accessible hardware simply does not exist in some regions.

Showing your students resources and statistics that display the digital divide will help them to understand that some people are not fortunate enough to have consistent reliable access to the internet. This hopefully makes them more empathetic of those they encounter and leads to becoming a better digital citizen.

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