Tuesday, February 15th, 2022
There is a saying that the current generation is being ‘raised by the internet’ and given the events of the last couple of years that statement has perhaps become even more true, which makes the concept of digital citizenship even more crucial if our children are going to develop confidently and safely. Put simply, digital citizenship is the set of behaviours and standards that a person practices when using technology. Just as we expect our children to develop good manners and be respectful others, the idea is that they must do the same on the internet.
Now, more than ever it is important we raise our children with the right skills and mindset to allow them to responsible digital citizens, so below we briefly explore 5 areas to help demonstrate what you can do as a parent to support your children on their digital journey.
Good digital citizens, which is what we want our children to become, know how to use digital technology sensibly, and how to behave online. They know how to protect their own rights and information, and are careful with the rights of the people they communicate and interact with online.
Digital citizens know how to cooperate both on- and offline, and contribute positively to the online activities they encounter. They are aware of and open to other cultures and other people’s perspectives and understand the need to open the digital world to everyone, regardless of disability, gender, race, culture...Digital citizens are also aware of the need to be lifelong learners, to keep up with the constant changes that digital technology delivers.
#1Explore the digital world together with your children and help them select websites and tools appropriate to their age and interests. Take regular opportunities to discuss their on-line activities with them so they come to appreciate that this is an integral part of the process. Set up a few ground rules that will keep your children on track and make it easier for you to see what they are up to.
#2Digital safety is crucial of course as there are some very real dangers your children could potentially run into. It can be almost impossible to censor all dubious or disturbing content so it is usually wiser to equip them with the skills to recognise suspicious content and know how to handle it. Consider installing parental control software on your children’s devices which will allow monitoring and restricting of inappropriate content. It is wise to discuss this together so your children understand why this is happening. Hand in hand with this has to be the on going dialogue between parent and children which means children feel confident in discussing whatever they come across and do not keep it hidden.
#3Help them develop digital literacy, a key skill that will help them live, learn and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly delivered through digital technologies. Digital literacy doesn’t mean I.T. proficiency, it refers to the need for children to develop critical thinking skills, an awareness of the necessary standards of on-line behaviour and an understanding of the shared social issues created by digital technologies. According to a recent report by the House of Lords (2017) teaching children how to thrive and survive in our internet dominated world is now as important as reading and writing. “Digital literacy should be the fourth pillar of a child’s education alongside reading, writing and mathematics and be resourced and taught accordingly.” House of Lords Report, 2017. Digital literacy is far more than just being able to locate and read information on-line
#4Encourage a healthy balance between everyday life and screen time. Although technology can be an immensely powerful tool to stay connected to our children and feel safe about their whereabouts, spending too much time on-line may prevent children from being present and connected to their surroundings. Remind your children on the possible consequences of what they post on social media and that nothing on-line can ever be truly private! It’s also a good idea to create opportunities for fun without the involvement of tech - some outside play or a Friday night pizza is a phone free meal!
Practice critical thinking, we now all live in a world where information is quickly and easily spread. Unfortunately it often transpires that certain information was in fact untrue. Talking to your children about this and helping them to acquire the skills to be able to critically discern what information is true and what is false is vital. Talk about fact checking, cross checking information on other sources and being able to ask critical questions to evaluate information. These are challenging skills to develop but the sooner you start to talk about them with your children the sooner their competency will develop.
Whether we like it or not, and I have to own up to some initial reservations, our children are growing up in a digital world, this is where our future lies. Even young children begin using technology very early which means we all have a responsibility to raise them as responsible digital citizens.
Always, always, encourage your children to come to you any time they feel uncomfortable or excluded on line and talk it over.