18 Tips and 9 Activities for Digital Citizenship Week

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Happy Digital Citizenship Week! Celebrated during the third week of October every year, this is a great opportunity to teach students important skills for navigating the Internet in both safe and smart ways!

Most schools have computer labs for teaching mouse and keyboard skills, but do you know how to teach your kids 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 fall under three different purposes: to respect, educate, and protect. Read on to discover 18 tips and 9 activities to help your students gain control of their digital lives in ways that connects to each of these nine elements.

Digital Access

Digital access is a term that loosely means a child’s ability to participate in the technological side of society. This can include having access to technological tools, as well as learning digital skills and how to connect with others online.

Tip #1: Remember to Address Disadvantaged Students

Children from low-socioeconomic status (SES) homes as well as students with disabilities, in particular, may not have the same digital resources at home as their peers. Keep in mind that your students come from a variety of backgrounds and provide in-class opportunities to access technology.

Tip #2: Consider Take-Home Technology

One school district in North Carolina with a high percentage of low-SES families provided children with inexpensive technological devices, like Chromebooks, to use at home. They found it to be a budget-friendly way to help bridge the digital equity gap. If you have many students who cannot access technology at home, this could be a good strategy to suggest to your school district.

Activity: Code.org

The earlier we can promote digital equity and teach students Internet skills, the better equipped they’ll be to thrive in digital fields. Use the free online activities from the non-profit Code.org to teach elementary students basic programming skills.

Digital Commerce

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: Keep Students Aware of Targeted Advertising

Advertisers are sneaky and often target parents through their kids in ads, commercials, and jingles. Explain to your students what advertising is and how to know when a website is trying to sell them something versus when it’s showing them trustworthy information.

Tip #4: Teach Each Child to Be a C.R.I.T.I.C.

The Institute for Humane Education encourages older elementary and middle school students to ask themselves the following questions about any online source:

  • Claim?
  • Role of claimant?
  • Information backing the claim?
  • Test?
  • Independent testing?
  • Cause proposed?

Asking these questions and being a C.R.I.T.I.C. can help students sort viable claims from false 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 develop digital fluency as a consumer and avoid targeted advertising.

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy involves learning how to find and interpret digital resources. In the elementary classroom, digital literacy encompasses skills like using a mouse or computer as well as knowledge about how to use search engines like Google or Yahoo.

Tip #5: Introduce Students to Social Media

One of the most popular examples of digital literacy is navigating and safely using social media. According to Beth Holland at Edutopia, it is never too early to explain what social media is and encourage parents to find ways to regulate their child’s social media activity.

Tip #6: Help Students Recognize Their Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is the information a person leaves behind or shares about themselves online. To strengthen a child’s digital literacy, 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 on the computer. This game from Funbrain is the perfect way to teach early elementary students how to move and click with their mouse.

Digital Communication

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 our words to be misinterpreted. Teach your students to use grammar and punctuation online to limit miscommunication as much as possible. Then, explain to them why serious conversations are best done in person.

Tip #8: Remind Students to Stay Safe While Communicating Online

With social media, it’s unfortunately easier than ever for children to interact with strangers online. Show your students how to be careful online and avoid strangers, as well as what to do if a stranger contacts them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

Activity: Mindful Messaging Video

Do your students understand what effect the words they use online can have? This short Mindful Messaging video shows kids a few examples of digital communication and why their words matter.

Digital Etiquette

Digital etiquette is just like its in-person counterpart: treating everyone we meet online with respect. One of the most relevant digital etiquette topics for elementary students is how to prevent cyberbullying and what to do if someone they know is being cyberbullied.

Tip #9: Remember That Behind Every Screen Is a Person

It’s easy to forget when we post a comment online or play a multiplayer video game that every online avatar belongs to another 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 later.

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 grown up 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: Prepare a Lesson on Internet Addiction

One of the most common examples of digital abuse is Internet addiction. While this is not a recognized disorder, excessive time spent online can definitely have a negative impact.

As a teacher, you can help your students avoid spending too much time on the Internet by explaining why digital media is best in moderation and how to use it wisely.

Activity: Digital Rights and Responsibilities Video

Everyone needs to know their rights and responsibilities as a digital citizen. This Ted Talk by Paul Davis can be a great resource to show older elementary 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 psychological well-being while online. For children, digital health and wellness activities often involve recognizing what screen time is and practicing time management while online.

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 student’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:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Excessive stress
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression

Activity: Keeping an Eye on Screen Time

In many cases, students might not be aware of just how much time they spend online. But every little bit adds up! Use this tracker activity (on page 3) to help kids recognize and learn to regulate their screen time.

Digital Law

Digital law involves abiding by the guidelines of an organization you are a part of (like a school district or community) 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 getting cyberbullied:

  • Sudden increased or decreased use in technological devices
  • Child starts to avoid social situations that they previously enjoyed
  • Student 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 Cyberbullying Help Line List

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.

Additionally, consider sharing this list of cyberbullying hotlines from the Cyberbullying Research Center, including:

Although the last number isn’t strictly a cyberbullying hotline, it can be useful for students in crisis due to the effects of cyberbullying.

Activity: Screen Out the Mean

We can’t stop people from being rude online, but we can choose how to respond to cyberbullying in schools. This activity shows early elementary students what to do if someone on the Internet makes them scared, angry, or uncomfortable.

Digital Security

Digital security is loosely defined as any steps taken to encourage safe Internet use for children—such as avoiding viruses, scams, and strangers. Practicing Internet safety is especially important for elementary students; they may know how to use technology but not how to protect their information.

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 kids 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 you can share with your students:

  • Add numbers and symbols
  • Avoid creating short passwords (five characters or fewer)
  • 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 for kids? Use this fun Internet safety game to test their knowledge and correct their misconceptions.

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