In the digital age, it is so important that we educators are teaching students how to navigate the evolving landscape of the internet. It is paramount that we teach them how to do this safely as well. This requires a concerted effort from us education professionals in terms of understanding technology and its ever-changing world. There are many practical ways in which we can help our students develop a healthy, and safe relationship with cyberspace, and this post will detail some of the most crucial elements of driving that effort forward.
Misuse of Social Media and the Digital Space
One of the biggest lessons you can teach your students in terms of digital citizenship is how to use social media safely and effectively. While social media is quite possibly the most important development in the history of the internet, it is of utmost importance to understand and relay the dangers that can arise from the misuse and abuse of this space.
On the misuse of social media side, there is oversharing. Let your students know that they shouldn’t let personal information be available for just any person to see. Many social media platforms ask personal questions; such as what your political leanings are, when your birthday is, what schools you went to, where you have worked, how many siblings you have, and some may even display your email address very visibly. On some social media platforms like Facebook, your interests are displayed in the form of various “liked” pages, which can be exploited by marketers, and unfortunately, identity thieves. But many view this as the first wave of understanding digital citizenship. Abuse of this citizenship, especially in the social media sphere, is another issue which needs to be addressed.
Abuse of Social Media and the Digital Space
According to the New York Times, abuse of the digital sphere is not only limited to identity thieves. The article posits that digital bullying is now on the rise. Social media platforms have made it far easier to connect to each other than ever before, but it is also far easier to harass people through this medium, and this harassment can have serious, sometimes lethal consequences. There have been many instances of digital bullying from classmates resulting in the harm or self-harm of other students, and while this is certainly not the norm, it does happen, and we educators must be aware and ready to combat this abuse every time we see it. We must be proactive in preventing it, and we must instill a sense of mindfulness and community within those we educate so that they truly understand the implications of digital harassment.
Passwords & Security
Along with misuse and abuse of social media, identity theft (as stated) is a major issue in our time. A web search will show that hacking is on the rise, and having strong passwords for your various online accounts is paramount in terms of staving off identity thieves. Another piece by the New York Times shows that the popular website Yahoo was hacked, and over one billion users’ personal data (which includes login information) was possibly compromised. And, since many people use the same password for multiple websites and logins, they were put at major risk in terms of their online privacy.
Help your students understand these threats. Assign more online homework. Help them become familiar with working in the digital space. It is very easy for educators to get frustrated with technology – it can be very distracting for students – but we must help these young minds prepare for the real world, and digital threats are very much a part of that existence.
There are many great resources available in terms of learning how to teach being a good digital citizen. A simple internet search can provide educators with great ideas from experts about how to deal with molding this new generation of digital citizenry.
The power is in your hands! Don’t fall behind, keep in tune with digital trends so you may be ready to educate the young minds that will be so actively using the internet. As we go further into this new age of connectivity, it is important for us to all understand how to be respectable members of society, even in the non-physical realm.