Social Media and Digital Citizenship
Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning, Digg, MeetUp, blogs, etc., — the number of social networking sites and tools is exploding. Social networking is a global revolution, enabling people worldwide to stay in touch with their friends, share experiences and photographs, and exchange personal content. For youth, social media has become a way of life.
However, the nature of social media carries a degree of risk and it can pose dangers if precautions are not taken. Too often, we hear about the negative aspects of social media, like cyberbullying or identity theft. Digital citizenship includes talking about these dangers and showing youth how they can navigate this “virtual playground” safely and responsibly.
Mary Beth Hertz, a high school technology teacher and Edutopia blogger, has a useful analogy for understanding the importance of teaching students how to be safe online:
"I always use the playground analogy when it comes to the internet and social media. We let our kids go to the playground knowing that they may encounter bullies there, or that they could fall and get hurt. We teach them how to climb, we help them when they fall or hurt themselves, and we instruct them about how to handle the bullies they may run into. Social media is the playground of this generation. They still need our guidance and help."
I think that digital citizenship starts with a deep understanding that posting on social media comes with responsibility. As educators, we can help students develop this responsibility while also understanding that they're not going to be perfect 100% of the time, and show them how to best handle problems when they do encounter them. OnGuardOnline.gov created the following video to show students the importance of sharing with care and being a responsible digital citizen:
The key to educating youth about digital citizenship is to have frequent, open conversations about the realities of social media. They need to understand how their digital footprint affects their job and college opportunities, about what cyberbullying is and how it affects people, and they need to learn about IP addresses and posting anonymously.
Chances are, whether you’re a personal user of social media or an educator who uses social media in the classroom, you have your own set of guidelines that promote good digital citizenship. Reply to the conversation below and share your own “Top 5” list of guidelines you think are most important when it comes to teaching youth about social media and online safety. The following example can get you started:
- Don’t share your password with anyone.
- Only accept friend requests from people you actually know. Having strangers in your network increases the chances that your photos and personal information will be shared with the world.
- Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, or employer to see. What goes online stays online.
- Be authentic. The real you is better than anything you might pretend to be.
- Learn about privacy settings, and review them often. Don’t assume you have to use the default settings.
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