Digital Citizenship for Students

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  • What are the challenges of introducing digital citizenship to young people (students)?
  • How can digital citizenship awareness be supported by current research? Which research is the most useful to a digital learning environment?


When introducing digital citizenship to students, I think that the idea of leaving a digital footprint is one of the biggest challenges in helping students to have a deep understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen, especially with younger students. Many students I have taught think that when something is deleted from their account that it is deleted from the internet. It is so important for students to realise that what they upload to the internet can follow them forever.

For young students the idea of ‘internet safety’ can also be a challenge. Last year my students participated in a Challenge Based Learning unit where they had to investigate ‘online identities’, their challenge was to ‘Promote safe and responsible online identities’. Through the learning process it became evident that many of my students’ online profiles were public, they were ‘friends’ with people they had never met before on Facebook and that they had uploaded photos to their online profiles that they would not want their parents to see. These students ranged in age from 10-12 years old. Not even at the recommended age for using many of these social tools. When learning about online safety and privacy I show students the following video (I also show it to parents at information sessions). It is quite confronting and rather creepy but I believe, so important for students and parents to see.

When introducing digital citizenship students first need to know how to stay safe and protected and that everything they do and say can online stay with them forever. This is not something that happens easily either, it constantly needs to be reinforced.

Another challenge when introducing digital citizenship to students is that much of the time, parents are not aware of how to stay safe online or understand that they too have a digital footprint, which makes our work as educators even harder.

Digital citizenship awareness can be supported by current research through proving students with real facts and stories that they can connect with. The more relevant we make this learning to students, the better.

I think that the Digital Citizens Guide – community and stakeholder research is extremely useful for a digital learning environment that articulates clear and effective ways of developing digital citizenship awareness. This guide, published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, views digital citizenship through a positive, online engagement lens rather than a negative or fear-based perspective. It identifies three principles that responsible digital citizens should practise:
> Engage positively
> Know your online world
> Choose consciously

These core principals are illustrated by ‘best practice’ initiatives, which provide authentic knowledge and learning for students.

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