This month my school is focusing on preparing our digital natives to be good cyber citizens. Citizenship is a character trait that is now being applied to use of technology. Cyber citizenship is a term that refers to being responsible when using the Internet, cell phones, and other electronic devices. What people do on-line when no one is looking tells a lot about a person’s character and morals. This is the first generation to be born into a world that already had computers. This means that you need to learn the rights and consequences of living in a digital world.
The librarian, technology coordinator, counselors and a PTA rep are coordinating our schoolwide effort to raise awareness about this important idea. Using the Internet, texting, etc. allows anonymity. We have third graders posting videos and making comments on YouTube, blogs, etc. Sharing can be great but certain cautions and responsibilities are required.
The counselors lessons are focused on the cyber bullying part of this puzzle. In third grade we begin to teach the children if they receive messages, pictures, etc. that are bullying to record or document the message and share it with a trusted adult. We use the lessons available on the Committee for Children web site that is part of the Steps to Respect program. My fifth graders get a bullying message to respond to requiring them to write back a message to a peer who “sent” a type of chain mail attack, pass it on or you will be the next target. After they wrote and read their responses we had a great discussion.
We sent a letter home to parents with conversation started questions to discuss cyber bullying at home. It takes some convincing to get young people to report this type of bullying because they are afraid parents will take away the technology (even if they were the target). We emphasize to parents this generation cannot avoid technology, but they must be taught how to use it responsibly.