Below is an article that I submitted as a guest column to the local Saint Peter Herald newspaper.
A growing need for teaching digital citizenship to younger children
by John Lustig, District Technology Director, Saint Peter Public Schools
‘Tis the season for holiday gift buying, and electronic devices are likely on the wish list for many of us, including our school age children. And, the age at which kids are receiving personal gaming machines, MP3 players, eBook readers, and mobile phones is getting younger every year.
A recent report from Common Sense Media indicates that it is increasingly more common for kids under the age of nine to frequently use iPods, iPads or tablets, and mobile phones. In our schools we are witnessing these changes. It is becoming more common for younger students to have a Smartphone in their backpacks to be able to communicate with their parents and friends.
Starting last year, Saint Peter Public Schools began increasing access to digital technology tools in classrooms for students through the Saints Digital Learning Initiative. Over the next three years the initiative will continue to add ipads for students in preschool through grade 12, increasing access and opportunities for engaging students in using technology tools in their face-to-face and virtual learning spaces.
Considering this emerging trend for younger kids to frequently access and use technology for gaming, communication and learning, it is becoming more important to teach our young children earlier about appropriate behavior for both their face-to-face and expanding virtual worlds.
Common sense usually prevails in regard to teaching children about appropriate behavior and it is easy to expect that many of the norms involved in our face-to-face behavior will also apply to our behavior in our virtual experiences. As children begin to use and learn about using technology at younger ages, it is critical that students learn about being responsible technology users at the same time.
Mike Ribble at digitalcitizenship.net organizes the themes of being a responsible digital citizen into three categories: respect, education, and protection. According to Ribble, these themes are comprised of nine elements that should be taught to kids beginning in Kindergarten. For example, young students should be able to demonstrate proper digital etiquette, know how to use technology for communication and exchanging information, and understand how rights and responsibilities apply to everyone in the virtual landscape.
Even before becoming users of technology, many young children already have a digital footprint through their parents, siblings, and relatives who share photos and information about developmental milestones via social media. As younger children begin to use mobile devices themselves and become consumers, creators, and publishers of digital information, it will be important that they expand their understanding about personal security to include their virtual world and become savvy users of technology tools.
As you share in your kids’ excitement this holiday season, please consider taking advantage of teachable moments about digital citizenship when they receive new electronic devices as gifts.