But when 18-year-old Kristen Lane posted a picture of herself wearing her old prom dress on social media, hoping to sell it to raise funds, she received a relentless barrage of hateful comments about her appearance instead.
“The comments made me feel horrible about myself," she says.
Online trolls “kept pestering her, kept cutting her down,” says ISTE CEO Richard Culatta, “until one student—maybe one of yours—simply posted, ‘I think you look beautiful.’ And then got others to do the same. Before you know it, people started flooding her with comments about how wonderful and beautiful she was.”
They also showered the Tennessee teen with donations to protest cyberbullying. Lane raised around $5,000, which she used to help buy dresses for other students at her school who couldn’t afford them—all because one student understood what it meant to be a good digital citizen.
“Learning to be an effective digital citizen is not something that happens if we don’t actively teach it,” Culatta says. “And preparing a generation of effective digital citizens is the most important thing we can do to ensure our democracy for the future.”
Unfortunately, many educators still mistakenly conflate digital citizenship with online safety. While teaching kids to craft strong passwords and refrain from posting inappropriate pictures online is important, it’s no longer enough. In an era of fake news and increasingly bitter political polarization, it’s time for teachers to move beyond online safety and teach students how to use technology to:
Make their communities better.
Respectfully engage with people who have different beliefs.
Shape and change public policy.
Assess the validity of online sources of information.
“Digital citizenship, it turns out, is not a list of ‘don’ts’ but a list of ‘dos’,” Culatta says. “And never has it been more important than it is now.”
To help advance the conversation, he urged educators at ISTE 2018 to commit to doing just one thing to promote digital citizenship in the coming school year and to share their pledges on social media using the hashtag #DigCitCommit. Here are some of their responses.
Projects with impact
“I pledge to bring digital citizenship to forefront by engage my school's fourth and fifth grade students in creating public service announcements for the school using posters to hang in the halls and video segments for our daily news show.” —Tim Swick
“I will have my students create/draw what kindness looks like to create a Paper Quilt Mural.” —Cynthia Lamas
“I will offer students REAL opportunities to participate in social media in class, modeling for them how to be a good digital citizen. I will also add a social media component to their passion project.” —Ms. Lourey
“I will use digital citizenship as a writing & research topic with my middle school students.” —Andrew Bucheger
Giving students the reins
“In addition to @CommonSenseEd lessons and certification, I commit to creating a student group who will run their own digital citizenship campaign on campus.” —Deatra Lee
“Promote digital citizenship idea: create peer group of middle school students to model positive social media behaviors for incoming middle schoolers.” —Pattie Morales
Getting parents involved
“What is ONE thing I will commit to doing this year to promote digital citizenship? Community Outreach Events for parents!” —Lisa Risch
“What is one thing I will do to promote digital citizenship? Plan and facilitate a parent night on digital citizenship.” —Erin Freestone
Leading by example
“As a building leader, I commit to promoting digital citizenship by first assessing whether or not digcit Instruction is happening in the classrooms on my campus.” —Dr. Mark Eley
“Promote digital citizenship in my school with leading by example. Show Ss how I interact online in different settings/occasions. Encourage all Ts to do something similar. Help students learn in context.” —Jeremy Mikla
What will you do to promote digital citizenship in your school? Read Wanda Terral's infographic and watch Class Intercom's video below, then share your ideas at #DigCitCommit.