Digital Citizenship & Internet Safety: Things Parents & School Leaders Must Know

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Education visionaries often share this with schools to remind them of the big challenge – “How to make students ready for the 21st century? Which skills will make them employable? How will you prepare the children of Today, to solve the problems of Tomorrow, by teaching them the concepts of Yesterday?” There are no easy answers to these questions. However we cannot stop looking for it, and the fact is we as a community have to search for it together.

One of the most important factors of 21st century life (both personal & professional) is the Internet. It has a big influence in our lives today, but it will have a much bigger influence & interference tomorrow. The internet is a fantastic resource, but also one which can be misused by both children and adults. For our children, Internet can become a big strength or a serious weakness. It can give them the best of opportunities or the worst of threats.

We all have heard about the Digital India program run by India’s Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Digital India is a program to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy but this makes it necessary for citizens of India to understand the pros and cons of going digital. This means that addressing the 21st century skill of digital citizenship is even more important; to help students to learn, communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly. Being a best digital citizen in the community includes having email etiquette, reporting and preventing cyber bullying, knowing about cyber safety, learning how to protect private information, etc.

In fact if you understand the term broadly, for students Digital Citizenship is the most important skill to possess, it is absolutely essential for staying safe online, improving quality of education, increasing career opportunities and opening doors for career growth of students in the 21st century.

Considering cyber safety as a key piece of Digital Citizenship, students need to be trained on simple Internet safety tips to help them protect their identities, keep their reputations and online experiences safe, and avoid becoming victims to online predators.

To engage the digital natives effectively and make them employable, we need to start getting serious about imparting this skill to our students so that they can:

  1. Understand the effective and responsible use of Internet in education.
  2. Prevent Cyber Bullying and avoid the negative effects of Internet.
  3. Get ready for a 21st Century Career and know what employers want.

Though similar initiatives have begun in developed countries like Australia and USA at the government level, the same is required in a developing country like India and especially when the country is highly focusing on and promoting the need for digital literacy.

Recently school leaders in our network shared the need for creating an eco-system and support system at the government level because they understand the importance of continuously engaging the school stakeholders in such initiatives; and the amount of effort it might require. They also shared the fact that they need to bring Digital Citizenship & Internet Safety in curriculum in a comprehensive manner and make it a part of everything they do with technology in schools. They need to teach students, train teachers, support parents to help their kids stay safe on the Internet by interacting and sharing relevant resources and guidelines.

Government has to be aware of the need of digital citizenship. Considering the reach of the Government, to reach masses they must launch such campaigns and make citizens aware through various media at their level or through partners.

World is talking about adaptability as a key skill in this fast changing world; schools and parents need to adapt to the need of the hour. To summarize, the key things all parents and school leaders must know are:

  1. The companies today – “the employers” have started judging students or employees based on their online personas and digital portfolios.
  2. They have to be aware about cases of cyber bullying in their society or school community and what severe consequences it can cause on student’s life. They need to learn about and take action on preventing cyber-bullying. Having open communications between kids and schools, and kids and parents is an important part of addressing cyberbullying.
  3. With the dynamic career opportunities in the tech space, they need to know that Information Search and Analysis is a key employable skill. It is important to critically appraise information, to be able to look for it, to analyze it and eventually appraise it and turn it into knowledge. Information Search and Analysis is a skill that comes with research practice but makes kids critical consumers and ready for upcoming jobs.
  4. The fact that those who are digitally literate are more likely to be economically secure in the 21st century.
  5. Digital Citizenship awareness must be a continuous thing happening in schools by involving various community members including students, teachers, leaders, parents.
  6. Technology is something that schools have to understand that it is going to be an important part of the students’ life in school, beyond school so it should be their responsibility to train and make students internet mature and internet safe.

Just like we have laws, rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the country, these kids who are citizens of the digital world should be aware of such rights and responsibilities in the online space. Practically you cannot put strict filters on all the non-sense on the internet for your kids, and filtering is not a practice you can exercise for the rest of their lives anyhow.

The key is you have to be able to create a behavior that is governed by sub-conscious; now you can imagine what efforts that might take. What are your thoughts and suggestions?

About the Author

Utkarsh Lokesh is the CEO and Editor of EdTechReview. Utkarsh has pushed EdTechReview to evolve from a blog to a global community and media platform for thousands of educators from over 200 countries and territories. He has been involved in conference production for niche edtech conferences, training and consulting educators and educational leaders on purposeful edtech integration, social media in education, mobile learning, flipped classroom for the past 2 years. He is also often invited as a speaker at conferences or as a judge at schools’ tech competitions.

 

(This is a guest article contributed on Techstory. Techstory is not responsible for views expressed and content in the article.)

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