Happy Digital Citizenship Week! Held during the third week of October by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, this event is a great opportunity to teach students how to navigate the Internet in safe and smart ways!
Most schools teach students mouse and keyboard skills, but do you know how to teach them about digital citizenship? The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) has compiled a list of nine elements of digital citizenship for students:
- Digital Access
- Digital Commerce
- Digital Literacy
- Digital Communication
- Digital Etiquette
- Digital Rights and Responsibilities
- Digital Health and Wellness
- Digital Law
- Digital Security
According to the ISTE, these elements serve three different purposes: to respect, educate, and protect. Here are 27 strategies—18 tips and 9 classroom activities—you can use to bring these nine elements into you class and help your students take control of their digital lives.
Digital access refers to a child’s ability to access technological resources. This can include having access to digital tools like tablets, as well as to learning digital skills that will help them navigate the Internet.
Tip #1: Remember to Address ALL Students
Children from low-socioeconomic status (SES) homes and others may not have access to the same digital resources as their peers, a form of inequity that is often referred to as the “digital divide.” Remember that your students come from a variety of backgrounds and provide in-class opportunities to use digital media accordingly.
Tip #2: Consider Take-Home Technology
One school district in North Carolina with a high percentage of low-SES families provided children with inexpensive digital devices to use at home. They found it to be a budget-friendly way to help bridge the digital equity gap. If you have students with limited home access, this could be a good strategy to suggest to your school district.
The earlier we can promote digital equity, the better equipped students will be to thrive in digital fields. Use the free online activities from the non-profit Code.org to teach elementary students basic coding skills.
The definition of digital commerce includes skills related to purchasing and selling items or services online. While most elementary students will not buy items online themselves, they should still learn how to spot and analyze targeted advertising.
Tip #3: Make Students Aware of Targeted Advertising
Advertisers are sneaky and often target families through their children. Explain to your students what advertising is and how to be mindful of information that is designed to sell something.
Tip #4: Teach Each Child to Be a C.R.I.T.I.C.
- Claim? — What is the source saying?
- Role of claimant? — Who wrote the source?
- Information backing the claim? — What research did the author use to support this souce?
- Test? — Has the claim been tested?
- Independent testing? — Has the claim been tested by an organization other than the author?
- Cause proposed? — What are a few reasons why the author might make this claim?
Asking these questions and being a C.R.I.T.I.C. can help students sort trustworthy claims from persuasive advertising.
Activity: How to Be Ad Savvy
It’s never too early to become ad savvy! This video activity from Common Sense Media shows kids how to recognize and avoid targeted advertising.
Digital literacy teaches children how to find and interpret digital resources. For elementary students, digital literacy includes computer skills like using a mouse and learning how to use search engines.
Tip #5: Encourage Families to Monitor Social Media Usage
One of the most popular examples of digital literacy is learning to navigate and safely using social media. According to Edutopia, it is never too early to encourage families to regulate social media activity.
Tip #6: Help Students Recognize Their Digital Footprint
A digital footprint is the information a person leaves behind or shares about themself online. To help children be mindful of this, teach them how to control what they share on the Internet.
Activity: Apple Catch
The first step to developing digital literacy is learning how to use a mouse and keyboard. This game from Funbrain is the perfect way to teach early elementary students how to move and click with their mouse.
Digital communication is anything that involves interacting with another person online. A few examples of digital communication include:
- Online messaging
- Posting on social media
- Playing multiplayer video games
- Sending an email
- Video chatting
Tip #7: Show Children How to Write Clearly Online
Because we can’t always use tone or body language online, it’s easy for others to misinterpret what we say. Teach your students to use grammar and punctuation online to limit miscommunication. Then, explain to them why serious conversations are best done in person.
Tip #8: Remind Students to Stay Safe While Communicating Online
It’s unfortunately easier than ever for children to interact with strangers online. Show your students how to be careful online and avoid strangers.Remind them that it is important to talk to you, their family, or another trusted grownup if a stranger approaches them online.
Activity: Mindful Messaging Video
Students need to know what impact their words can have online. This Mindful Messaging video shows kids a few examples of digital communication and why their words matter.
Digital etiquette is just like its in-person counterpart: it means treating people we know online with respect. This includes topics such as how to prevent cyberbullying and what to do if someone a child knows is being cyberbullied.
Tip #9: Remember That Behind Every Screen Is a Person
It’s easy to forget when we just see their name on the screen that every message we send and receive belongs to a person. Maryville University suggests reminding students to treat their friends and family members online just as they would in person to practice digital etiquette.
Tip #10: Explain When It Is and Isn’t Appropriate to Use Technology
While digital media is a helpful resource, it’s not right for every situation. Calling a friend during a family dinner, for example, or using a phone during a test are both inappropriate uses of technology. Teach students how to recognize when they should or shouldn’t use technology.
Activity: Online Is Permanent
Students might not realize it yet, but the things we upload to the Internet are almost always permanent. Use this science activity (on page 3 of the link) as a fun analogy about how following digital etiquette rules can prevent us from putting things online that we might regret.
Digital Rights and Responsibilities
Digital rights and responsibilities are the privileges and duties that each person has while using the Internet. It’s important to inform students about what their rights and responsibilities are to keep their Internet usage safe and healthy.
Tip #11: Teach Students About Online Privacy
Today’s elementary students have always lived in a world where the Internet is easily accessible. Because students use digital media at such a young age, teachers can make a big difference by teaching them what they should or should not share about themselves online.
Tip #12: Encourage Students to Practice Time Management
Time management skills can help students avoid spending excessive amounts of time online. As a teacher, you can help by explaining why digital media is best in moderation and how to use it wisely.
Activity: Rings of Responsibility Video
Everyone needs to know their rights and responsibilities as a digital citizen. This Rings of Responsibility video can be a great resource to show older students how to ethically use digital media.
Digital Health and Wellness
Digital health and wellness is defined here as learning to nurture your physical and mental wellness online. For children, digital health and wellness activities often involve recognizing what screen time is and how to use it in mindful ways. If you teach teenagers, this could also include nurturing a healthy relationship with social media.
Tip #13: Promote Active Screen Time Over Passive Screen Time
Not all screen time activities are created equal, but they can be sorted into two categories: active and passive screen time.
Active screen time activities, like video chatting with family, playing educational games, or learning keyboarding skills, are cognitively or physically stimulating. But passive screen time activities, like watching a movie or YouTube video, do not engage students in the same way.
While it’s perfectly fine for a student to have a little of both, encourage them to seek active screen time activities over their passive counterparts.
Tip #14: Teach Students About the Physical Effects of Excessive Screen Time
Most of us have read studies about how too much screen time affects a child’s brain. But did you know that the effects are much deeper than that? Share these consequences of too much screen time to help your students make informed choices:
- Excessive stress
- Low self-esteem
Activity: Track Your Screen Time
In many cases, children might not be aware of how much time they spend online. Use this tracker activity (on page 3) to help kids be more mindful of their screen time.
Digital law refers to following the guidelines of an organization you are a part of (like a school district or family) while using digital media. For elementary schools, this—along with digital etiquette—includes how to prevent and react to cyberbullying.
Tip #15: Look Out for the Warning Signs
The earlier you respond to cyberbullying in your class, the faster you can stop it. Keep an eye out for these warning signs set by the StopBullying organization to identify children who may be a victim of cyberbullying:
- Sudden increased or decreased use of technological devices
- Child starts to avoid social situations that they previously enjoyed
- Student’s social media accounts are suddenly shut down or created
- Child exhibits strong emotional responses to information on their digital device
- Child appears to lose interest in classroom activities or peers
Tip #16: Share This List of Cyberbullying Help Lines
In some cases, a student might not know who to tell if they’re being cyberbullied. Let them know that you and any other trusted adult in their lives are always here to listen. Also, consider sharing this list of cyberbullying hotlines from the Cyberbullying Research Center, including:
- STOMP Out Bullying: (877) 602-8559
- Social Media Helpline: (855) 997-0409
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
Although the last number isn’t strictly a cyberbullying hotline, it can be useful for students in crisis from cyberbullying trauma.
Activity: Screen Out the Mean
We can’t stop other people from being rude, but we can choose how to respond to cyberbullying in schools. This TED talk from student Vincent Parsons shows early elementary students what to do if someone on the Internet makes them scared, angry, or uncomfortable.
Digital security includes any steps students take to encourage safe online habits—like avoiding viruses, scams, and strangers. Practicing Internet safety is especially important for elementary students. They may know how to use digital media but not how to protect their information or themselves.
Tip #17: Use Interactive Internet Safety Programs
What better way to learn Internet safety tips than by guided practice in class? Use this list of interactive online safety websites from LoveToKnow to help children learn good online habits:
Tip #18: Show Students How to Make a Strong Password
Passwords keep our emails, social media, and other accounts secure. Teach students how to make strong passwords and avoid weak examples like “password” or “12345.”
Here are a few tips for making a strong password from Mental Floss that you can share with your students:
- Add numbers and symbols
- Make passwords at least six characters long (and even longer is better)
- Choose a nonsense phrase instead of a real word
- Do not include personal information (like your last name) in your password
- Avoid telling anyone your passwords, except your parents and teachers
Activity: Internet Safety Quiz
Do your students know the dos and don’ts of Internet safety? Use this fun Internet safety game from BrainPop to test their knowledge and correct their misconceptions.