Empowering Students Through Technology: Six Tips for Increasing Digital Awareness

In her new book “Digital Citizenship: Teaching and Strategies from the Field,” educator Carrie Rogers Whitehead presents research-based teaching methods, that are designed to help young people navigate the online world. The research is culled from her many years on the front lines as a digital citizenship activist and founder of Digital Respons-Ability.

 

“We’re adding all this technology in classrooms and homes without pausing to reflect upon the long-term effects, “ observes Carrie. “This has all happened fast, and I believe we need research and time to guide us to make the best decisions.” 

Carrie offers these six pieces of advice for educators to pass on to students that will help empower those students as they learn their way around the internet.

1. Private means private: It’s essential for young people to keep personal information confidential. They should be taught never to reveal their surname, address, phone number, passwords or even birthday to anyone they only know through Facebook, Instagram, a chat room or a text.

2. Don’t add “friends” without due diligence: “The New Yorker” once ran a cartoon of a dog at a typewriter. Its caption? “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Emphasize the importance of selectivity to your students. If they don’t know someone in real life, chances are there’s little compelling reason to know that person online.

3. What you write online can haunt you for the rest of your life: The news is filled with stories about individuals whose livelihoods or reputations are jeopardized by some foolish thing they posted once upon a time in cyberspace. Once you publish something on the internet, it’s almost impossible to remove all traces of it. Emphasize to your students that they should never write anything online they wouldn’t want their parents to read.

4. Don’t pick on people: The internet has the power to amplify words. Something that seems like gentle teasing to one person can be overpowering to someone else. Teach your students to avoid saying anything online that might be embarrassing or hurtful to a third party.

5. If you’re picked on, tell an adult: CyberbuIlying can take many forms from posting mean messages to revealing personal confidences, images and texts to others. The effects can be devastating: Some young people have even killed themselves over cyberbullying. Make sure your students know that they don’t have to put up with it. Every state has laws against stalking, and a trusted adult can help in a positive, proactive manner.

6. Limit your online time: Teach your students the signs of internet addiction. The internet can seem so intense when a young person is first encountering it that it’s easy to forget there’s a whole world outside cyberspace. Highlight the importance of monitoring internet usage.

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