I read a lot about the dangers of the internet, cyber bullying and about keeping children safe online. Browsing through the articles that are shared on social media that I see on my devices, I would say that we live in an extremely dangerous digital world where children can be easily targeted, influenced and emotionally or physically harmed. It is scary. I believe that the digital world can be dangerous just as I believe that the ‘real’ world can be dangerous. We have learnt to stay safe in the real world, mostly by making sensible choices. What can we do about the digital world? How can we keep our children and our students safe? Reading about how dangerous something that is so intertwined in our lives that it has become a big part of our world is not helpful, unless we also have some advise and resources on how to navigate this world safely.
The big bad digital world
I had an interesting conversation with a friend who teachers teenage girls in an International school. She said it is sometimes not only what the friends say about them but it is the exclusion from groups that can hurt teenagers more and affect their self esteem. Knowing that your friends are in a group and that you are the only one not in can hurt just as badly as knowing that they are talking about you on chat groups. A silly picture from a party ending up on all your ‘friends’ devices can cause irreparable harm. This is much easier to do with social media in a digital world than in a physical environment. It is easier to reach many more people with the touch of a button. That provocative picture you posted when you were a rebellious teenager can come and haunt you years later. Read about your digital footprint on my blog here.
While the dangers of the digital world are real, the benefits of it are also real. And it is a fact that children are growing up in a digital world. As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to help them navigate in this world safely by laying strong foundations for them.
Laying strong foundations
I am a mother and a Preschool teacher. It is my job to teach children how to navigate this world safely, whether it is the online or in the real world. So I will look at this important issue of children’s safety through my lens as a mother and as a Preschool teacher.
I believe that laying strong foundations in their childhood will help children navigate this world safely by making responsible choices. Just as communication and trust are key, boundaries and safety are critical. How do we find the right mix?
As parents and teachers we create a safe environment for children to thrive. These spaces are developmentally appropriate for children to satisfy their curiosity by trying out things, testing their boundaries, making connections and learning. These spaces are designed to meet children’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive needs. They are free to explore within these boundaries with various degrees of adult supervision and support. These spaces can also have digital elements as it is also a part of their world. The kind of digital elements and how much is provided in the environment should be developmentally appropriate and meaningful.
As a PYP teacher, I strongly believe in the IB learner profile and getting those attributes of the learner profile introduced to the children from a very young age. I believe that it really helps them to reflect on themselves and make right choices.
In my experience as a teacher as well as a mother, talking to children about being reflective and asking them whether their actions were kind and whether they were being fair make them think. Doing this regularly helps children acquire the habit of self reflection and may help them make better choices. This can be applied to the digital world.
“Being a good digital citizen is more than knowing your way around the web. It’s about connecting and collaborating in ways you didn’t even know were possible.” – Common sense Education
The digital world is a big part of our world and being a good digital citizen is how we stay safe in this world, while making the most out of the amazing opportunities that are in this digital world and still being mindful and respectful towards other people.
The children’s digital portfolio is a very good way to start teaching children about digital citizenship. In our school we use SeeSaw as the student’s digital portfolio. Children are encouraged to think before they post. We have some essential agreements for posting that we came up together with the children.
1.’I will post my learning.’ –
I am showing something:
I am curious about and share my wonderings. I wonder if…
I figured out
I did for the first time
I made that I am really proud of… why am I proud of this?
That I would like to teach you
2. ‘I will always explain what I am doing.’
We are also using the THINK strategy to reflect on our comments that we put on our friend’s posts.
Talking about being a good human being, that includes being a good digital citizen, is a conversation we should be having every day with our children and with our students. It should be embedded and incorporated into our daily lives and in all our teaching and learning. We should be living the attributes of the learner profile and we will also be good digital citizens.