Digital Citizenship. Many schools speak about this topic with students in a limited way. This is surprising, considering how many of today’s schools rely on technology for students to get their work done. There are internet usage agreements for the parents and students to sign at the beginning of the year, but we do not think that is enough. Students need to understand how important internet responsibility is.
Very few school districts have a class on internet responsibility and in our opinion this needs to change. Adults did not grow up with the internet or technology in the classroom like kids do today, so they do not always fully understand the problem at hand. Mandatory internet responsibility classes will benefit not only students, but teachers and parents as well because these classes will offer solutions for potential conflicts involving the internet.
Every day students are sharing information and building their online presence, but they do not always realize the implications of their actions. Cyber-bullying has taken conflicts to the next level. Adults need to understand that while the internet is a great tool for learning, it is also a great tool for bullies. Bullies can send dozens of hateful messages and photos with the click of a button through popular websites like Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. While these websites were designed to help build connections, users do not always have the best intentions.
Children need to be taught what is appropriate and inappropriate to post. Kids do not always realize that once something is posted online, it may be impossible to remove it permanently. All it takes is a second for a post or a photo to be online, because bullies can easily take screenshots and use them later on for ammo. Schools need to emphasize the responsibility that comes with using the internet, because many kids and teens are too young to understand the full consequences and severity that posting or sending a revealing photo or an offensive message can have on their future.
Without students learning and practicing good password habits, there is no way to be sure of identities. A predator can easily pose as a child through many outlets. For example, most online learning games allow the user to chat and add friends, so predators and cyberbullies have more avenues. Children are trusting by nature, and need to understand that danger is always present on the internet.
Kids of all generations have received the typical “stranger danger” talk from their parents, but today’s generation starts using the Internet at a young age. Stranger danger on the internet is different than stranger danger in the real world. A stranger online is not always obvious, because it is easy for a predator to pose as someone the child knows in order to get private information or even to establish a meeting.
Many parents believe that their child is too smart to be tricked, but most online predators are crafty and know how to gain a child’s trust. Schools need to get kids to listen and understand the warning signs that they are communicating with a predator. A mandatory class that is modified every year will help ensure that students know that danger that can lurk behind a friendly picture online.
Overall, we believe that with the right lessons in place, children can enter this new world of technology with their eyes open. This will make the internet a safer and less poisonous outlet.