Tips for teaching digital citizenship and healthy digital habits

Over the past several decades – and especially in the last 10 years – the internet has opened the door to a whole new world for teachers and students alike. And while that is in many ways an amazing thing, from streamlining communication to improving learning outcomes, it can also be hazardous for young learners developing social/emotional skills.

As we move forward in the ever-progressing digital age, it becomes even more important for students to learn how to use the internet and digital devices responsibly and securely. Here is a closer look at the importance of digital citizenship and how you can go about teaching healthy digital habits within your everyday curriculum.

What is digital citizenship?

At its core, digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses a computer, the internet, or a digital device to engage with society on any level. This could mean sending an email, interacting while playing a video game, commenting on a friend’s social media post, and countless other activities.

But knowing how to do these things responsibly and securely is not something inherently rooted in our DNA. It requires education and practice to become a positive habit. Teaching proper digital citizenship helps students take ownership of their digital lives and helps them ultimately make smart choices online – and in life, which now takes place so largely on the internet.

What does good digital citizenship look like?

Good digital citizenship shows young students how to connect with one another, empathize with one another, and create lasting relationships through digital tools while staying safe and protecting their privacy. It focuses on understanding how the internet works, how user data works, how to practice digital wellness, and much more.

What does bad digital citizenship look like?

Bad digital citizenship includes aspects like cyberbullying, irresponsible social media usage, and a lack of knowledge about how to safely use the internet. For young students, these skills are especially critical and can help shape their use of the digital world for years to come.

Strategies for teaching digital citizenship

Now that we know what digital citizenship is and what it should look like, how do we go about teaching it? Here are several key aspects of digital citizenship that must be addressed from a young age.

How the internet works

In order to use the internet responsibly, students must first have at least a base-level understanding of what it is and how it works. This may be more readily understood today than it was two decades ago, as students are using digital devices more and more in their everyday lives, but this is still an important foundational step in fostering healthy digital habits.

When you share with students the true scope and depth of everything possible on the internet today, you increase their likelihood of understanding just how important it is to know how to use this vast platform responsibly.

Understanding user data

It’s no secret that essentially every website and application online today collects data on its users. Much of this data is used to refine marketing communications and to connect with users in a more personal way.

But it’s also no secret that this data can be used against online users, whether packaged and sold to third-parties or otherwise leveraged without permission. It’s important for students today to know not only how personal data works and what it entails, but how to protect themselves and their data from any unwanted or malicious activity.

Digital wellness

Just as it’s important to understand how the internet works and how to use it, it is arguably more important to know how and when to refrain from internet use or from digital devices in general. So much of our lives are tied to our devices now, even at an early age. This is certainly the case in schools where many students use Chromebooks, Windows PCs, or another personal device throughout the day.

While this has dramatically improved both teaching experiences and learning outcomes, it’s also important to know when to take a break from our screens. Studies have shown that screen time can impact transitive memory, empathy, and other areas of development in young minds. Teaching moderation and the importance of stepping away from our screens to prioritize exercise and nutrition all have their place in fostering digital wellness.

Device security

Once students have an understanding of the basics – how the internet works, how their data is being used, and how to moderate device usage – it’s time to educate them on securing their devices. This includes everything from smartphones and laptops to VPNs and antivirus software.

Educating students on digital citizenship is just the first step, and there’s so much more you can do to ensure that students have a safe and healthy relationship with technology. Leveraging the right tools and explaining how they work should play a leading role.

Tools for fostering good digital citizenship

Here are some great tools and resources to help teach and practice digital citizenship.

Be Internet Awesome from Google for Education

This online adventure puts many of the key lessons of digital safety into hands-on practice with a series of challenging games, teaching kids the fundamentals of the web so they can explore the online world with confidence.

Be Internet Awesome works great because it is an interactive way to teach students things like who to share information with, how to identify scams and fraud, how to safeguard personal data, and more. Be Internet Awesome was made in collaboration with several industry experts in online safety, including the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, ConnectSafely, and the Family Online Safety Institute.

Securly

A leading option to promote student well-being during the use of technology tools, Securly features cloud-based web filtering and AI-based scanning of emails, Docs, and Drive. It also sends administrators alerts of behavior pertaining directly to cyberbullying and suicide so the appropriate parties can intervene.

Securly’s list of features include:

  • Filter – Scalable, cloud-based web filtering for every device
  • Auditor – Real-time email, Docs, Drive, and OneDrive scanning with AI-based notifications
  • Tipline – An anonymous tip line and risk assessment tool for each incident
  • Classroom – Cloud-based classroom device management to help teachers guide and monitor online activities, keep students focused, and communicate with the entire class

Transform learning experiences with Trafera

At Trafera, we believe technology can only improve learning experiences when we make people our number one investment. We partner with the industry’s most trusted brands to provide students and educators with the tools and technology they need to transform the learning experience in 2022 and beyond. With Trafera on your team, we’ll work together to navigate the complexities of today’s learning environment is a supportive and empowering way.

Contact us today to learn more about providing your students with a more engaged and a more connected experience this school year and beyond.