Could digital citizenship be the most important pandemic lesson?

When the pandemic prompted schools to quickly shift to distance learning last spring, educators became responsible for using online technologies to teach students. This was the first time that many educators had to grapple not only with virtual classroom management, but with helping their students learn the ins and outs of staying safe online. This included a crash course in learning and behaving online.

This set of “online manners” is referred to as digital citizenship, which is how we should behave when using digital tools, interacting with others online, and becoming better stewards of technology.

As a leader of a nonprofit where young kids connect and learn online, we prioritize teaching kids these important skills that will take them well into adulthood. 

Students need to be taught things like:

  • Behaving appropriately when online, i.e., encouraging students to use THINK: 
    • Is it Truthful? 
    • Is it Helpful? 
    • Is it Inspiring? 
    • Is it Necessary? 
    • Is it Kind?
  • Learning to protect their private information online.
  • Being respectful of themselves and others.
  • Saying “no” to disruptive or bullying behavior, and encouraging others to do the same and be respectful.
  • Negotiating conflict with others, for example, in online games or while collaborating on a project.
  • Recognizing the benefits of teamwork when partnering in a virtual space.
  • Becoming effective communicators by sharing messages and ideas using global chat and voice chat tools like Discord can increase confidence and self-esteem.
  • Sharing their mistakes and persistence with others. Doing so will help them see failure as both an opportunity to learn (“Well, that didn’t work!”) and as a chance to save others from a similar fate.
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