Digital Citizenship and Netiquette: A Teacher’s Guide
What Does ‘Digital Citizenship’ Mean, and How Does It Apply to the Classroom?
What Is Netiquette?
- Remember there’s a human on the other side of your digital interaction, whether that interaction takes place on social media, email, or forum.
- Apply your normal standards of behavior to your behavior online.
- Be aware of context, and tailor your communications accordingly. Different forums, websites, blogs, and social media platforms have varying community standards, which are often stated onsite.
- Shea says to “respect other people’s time and bandwidth.” This means users shouldn’t post content that doesn’t belong on a particular website or forum, nor should they post spam or needlessly long content.
- Don’t post something that will embarrass you and make you look bad. Posting tone-deaf, inappropriate, profane, or unlawful content is one of the major social media mishaps you should avoid.
- Prioritize and share content from verifiable, expert sources. Avoid sharing content that is questionable in its veracity (fake news).
- Avoid excessive trolling and “flaming” — flaming is intense, heated, and argumentative discussion, while trolling is abusive and subversive comments.
- Respect human privacy; don’t use digital technology to spy on other people.
- If you’re in a position of power, don’t abuse it. Moderators and administrators must not shut down certain users arbitrarily.
- Be graceful and forgive people their mistakes.
Digital Citizenship Curriculum Overview
- Password protection: Students must understand how to create secure passwords, lvary them, and store them safely. For a good place to start, the Cyberbullying Research Center has a teen-specific resource you can easily adapt to younger age groups.
- Privacy: When it comes to internet safety, kids need to know if and when it’s appropriate to share private information that entities can use to identify them. However, they may not be concerned about this issue. The Common Sense Media curriculum helps you answer the question, “what’s the big deal about internet privacy?” (grades 9-12).
- Personal content: Predators and bullies can’t necessarily identify students through their personal information, such as their favorite color or the name of their dog. However, it’s still not wise for students to share too much information, particularly on social media platforms. Parentinfo.org helps separate the myths from the facts.
- Photographs: Alert students to the fact that prying eyes can use photos they upload to determine their location and software can identify them through facial recognition technology. Here again, they should think carefully before sharing on social media. Davis’ Location Based Safety Guide addresses this issue.
- Property rights: When it comes to images, digital citizenship requires students to respect copyright laws. Cult of Pedagogy has a resource on teaching students to use images legally online.
- Permission to use images: Students must attribute the image’s source to obtain permission for its use. Here’s more information on copyright, fair use, and creative commons, as well as a usable curriculum on proper image attribution.
- Protection against cyber hackers: Due to the growing prevalence of cyber hackers, it’s important to educate students about them. The Department of Homeland Security has a good cybersecurity starting point for educators. Additionally, educators with an online bachelor’s degree or an online master’s degree in cybersecurity are well-prepared to tackle this subject.
- Professionalism: Middle school and high school educators can begin informing students on professional standards, including citing sources and using proper grammar.
- Personal branding: The Huffington Post explains that building a personal brand is important for any high school student seeking to go to college. PwC provides a workbook on personal branding.
Teaching Safety and Privacy in an Online Learning Environment
Understanding Digital Footprints
- If your student posts inappropriate pictures or comments on social media or elsewhere, the content will remain online indefinitely unless removed.
- Predators and hackers can access location data through social media pictures and — via the dark web — can purchase data on browsing history and other sensitive data in an effort to target users.
- Colleges and potential employers can look at a student’s digital footprint — including their social media footprint — to determine whether they want to admit or hire the student.
Teaching Middle School Students About Their Digital Footprint
- Acquaint them with the nature of digital media: “Digital Life 101” provides students with a primer on the always-on nature of digital media and helps them analyze why it’s important to engage in online relationships responsibly.
- Encourage them to respect others’ privacy: “Secret Sharer” encourages students to take a proactive approach in understanding the importance of online privacy.
- Encourage safe talk: “Safe Online Talk” provides a short video, a guided class discussion, and a handout to help students understand the importance of avoiding risky conversations online.
- Help them think about how they present themselves online: “Which Me Should I Be?” poses the prospect of assuming a different identity online, provides a video to prompt discussion, and includes a handout to help students think ethically about posing as someone else.
- Teach them the common sense basics of internet safety: Common Sense on Internet Safety for Middle School Kids is a resource teachers and parents can share in your efforts to teach them the essentials of internet safety. It includes information on
- What information they shouldn’t share
- Which emails they shouldn’t open
- A basic rule for sharing photos
- Password privacy (parents should have access)
- Encouragement to tell a trusted adult when something weird happens
- Additionally strategies for internet safety
Teaching High School Students About Their Digital Footprint
- Start by talking about relationships: By high school, kids are fully immersed in the social aspect of the internet. “Risky Online Relationships” sets up a discussion about “stranger danger,” unpacks the term “online predator,” and presents a story to help high schoolers think about how to avoid risky online relationships.
- Look at the major privacy and internet safety topics from a parent’s perspective: Common Sense Media’s collection of internet safety topics addresses major issues such as the dark web, privacy settings on Instagram and Facebook, and what to do when a teen’s device gets hacked. Teachers can use this portal to tailor lessons to address the issues parents are dealing with every day.
- Teach privacy by sharing stories and solutions: Teaching Privacy’s portal on digital footprints shares real-world stories on people whose digital footprint came back to bite them, and provides information as well as guides on how to customize digital technology for optimum privacy.
How to Model Digital Citizenship
- Walk students individually through safe social media usage, from creating a profile to curating friends and followers to posting content.
- In the classroom, access your own social media account for the students to see and show how to connect with experts, authors, and positive influencers.
- Set up a classroom social media account and give each student the chance to “take over,” meaning they get to post pictures and videos of their favorite educational activities. Make sure the rules are well established.
- Monitor students’ social media usage, and when they make a mistake — such as accepting a friend request from someone they don’t know — use it as an opportunity to create a discussion about digital citizenship.
Cyberbullying Awareness and Prevention
Teaching Middle School Students About Cyberbullying
- Provide them with a go-to list of tips: The “ABC’s of Cyberbullying for Students” is a simple list of easy ways for students to keep from becoming victims of cyberbullying.
- Encourage them to stand up for themselves and others: “Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding” helps students distinguish between being a bystander and an upstander, provides a handout that helps them understand why they should care, and helps them think of concrete solutions to cyberbullying.
- Engage them with multimedia activities that tell stories: NetSmartz Lesson Plans include videos, interactive comics, worksheets, and interactive activities to engage students and help them think about the potential consequences of their actions online.
Teaching High School Students About Cyberbullying
- Give them the facts and promote awareness: The Anti-Defamation League’s statistics on bullying provides the statistical picture so that cyberbully victims know they’re not alone and cyberbullies know people are aware of what they’re doing. Often awareness is the first step to change.
- Engage them with multimedia activities that tell stories: Like middle schoolers, today’s high schoolers are more likely to be engaged through visual and interactive formats. NetSmartz lesson plans for high schoolers help these students understand the subject.
- Provide a guide: HelpGuide’s “Bullying and Cyberbullying” guide explains cyberbullying, its effects, the reasons why bullies do what they do, tips on how to deal with it, support mechanisms and strategies, and includes an informative sections for teachers and parents.
Copyright and Digital Property
What Is Plagiarism?
What Is Fair Use?
- It’s for educational purposes
- It’s a factual or biographical work rather than an artistic, creative one
- It’s a small portion of the work that doesn’t capture the “heart” of it, or the way in which the student uses the entire work is such that it creates a brand new, original thing (collage or parody)
- It doesn’t affect the work’s current or future market value
Teaching Middle School Students About Copyright and Digital Property
- Help them understand what qualifies as “fair use”: “Rework, Reuse, Remix” is a hands-on lesson that teaches students about the four points of fair use by incorporating critical thinking, and students create an original work through fair use.
- Use a story to help them think about the responsibility of a creator: “A Creator’s Responsibilities” tells the story of a cut-and-paste artist, examines further case studies, and helps students consider the ethical implications of this type of artistry.
- Encourage students to view themselves as both consumers and creators: Copyright & Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens provides a middle school curriculum with sections that explain students’ role, how to acquire and share content legally and ethically, and how to create new content via fair use.
- Help them understand the difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing: “Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing” is a lesson plan that emphasises the importance of avoiding plagiarism and, through interactive practice, shows students the difference between plagiarism and fair use, as well as paraphrasing.
- Engage them through an activity that asks them to choose: After explaining copyright law and fair use, “Copyrights and Wrongs” provides a handout that has students pretend they are an ad executive who has to apply what they’ve learned to the act of choosing a photo for an ad campaign.
- Show them videos to illustrate what they must consider: Copyright & Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens provides a high school curriculum with video-based lessons that address their role as creators and consumers, how to acquire and share content legally and ethically, as well as the rules for fair use, creative commons, permissions, and public domain.
- Use college-level writing lab resources to prevent plagiarism: The Purdue Owl writing lab contains resources for teachers, including lessons on preventing plagiarism.