Children of all ages now days have access to various forms of media and the internet on a daily basis both at home and at school. As teachers, we use media as a tool for learning to increase engagement and provide authentic experiences that enhance the learning in our classrooms. As parents, if I may be frank, we let our kids use media at home to ease the burden of having to constantly entertain them ourselves, and to allow our kids some time to do something they really enjoy. So my question is, whose role is it to ensure our kids act safely and appropriately when using this media?  As both a parent and a teacher I feel I can answer this question with a clear and balanced mindset. Consequently, I think the only way for our kids to learn how to be good digital citizens is if BOTH parents and teachers work together to get the job done right.

Teachers’ Role

First and foremost, our job as teachers is to ensure we are being a model of a good digital citizen to our students. In other words, we need to make sure that we ‘practice what we preach.’ I think there are a few practical things we can do to let our students see our digital citizenship skills in action:

  • You can have real conversations with your students about how you are careful about what you post on your social media to ensure your privacy and create a positive digital footprint for yourself.
  • Show them how it takes work for you find the images you use to create posters, handouts, slideshows, etc. and make sure to point out the attribution you give to the creator.
  • If you found an activity you are doing with your class from a fellow educator on Twitter, tell them that! Explain to your students that this tool has empowered you to learn more from people all over the world.

The most obvious thing we need to do as teachers, is teach it. The good news about this is that we are not alone and there are resources out there to help us out. Here are a few of my faves:

Every good teacher knows that just modeling and teaching any topic isn’t enough for students to learn it. In the article Don’t Teach Digital Citizenship- Embed It! by Heather Marrs she states,

…kids do best when they can learn something authentically, by figuring out their own answers to real-world problems that are relevant to their lives… As one of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, digital citizenship is a key skill for living and working in a connected world. And I’ve found that if my students don’t learn this important skill set in an authentic way, it will be just another abstract idea that becomes real only when they run into problems down the road. I want to help them avoid those kinds of major mishaps if I can by teaching them how to be good digital citizens now.

In other words, teachers need to have a way for students to not just learn about being good digital citizens, but also put it into authentic practice. One way that I have found to do this effectively is through Seesaw. I really can’t promote this FREE resource enough. Not only is it a great tool for students of all ages to create digital portfolios, but it provides kids a way to practice showing good digital citizenship skills in a real world context.

The last but not least important job teachers have to do to help turn our students into good digital citizens is to teach and provide resources to parents. As a teacher/parent myself, I can tell you that before taking this course, my knowledge on this topic was lacking. Now that I have this knowledge, you better bet I am doing some things differently in my household when it comes to media and my children at home. If parents don’t know, they can ignorantly become poor models and make poor choices when it comes to their children’s media use in the home. Common Sense Media has a great article you can send to parents for tips in this area as well as PDF tips for younger kids and older kids that you can print and send home for your students’ parents to read. If more parents are aware and knowledgable on this topic, they will become better models and ensure kids are implementing these skills at home as well. All that being said, it can’t stop here.

Parents’ Role

Parents too have a HUGE role in ensuring safe media use for their children. First and foremost, just as with teachers, we as parents need to ensure we are being a model of a good digital citizen to our kids. Your children will do what you do, so make sure you are acting in a way that it is worth copying.

Secondly, we can’t leave all the teaching in this area up to the teachers. We need to do some teaching on this topic in the home as well. Here are a few practical things we can do to teach our kids in a simple but effective way:

  • We can’t spend hours on our devices while ignoring our children. Show them balance, so they can learn balance.
  • Be a media mentor. I know it’s not March (Media Mentor Month), but these are still some really great ideas we can implement as parents.

  • We need to have real conversations with our kids about our social media use. Check out this great article on this topic called Talking to Your Kids About Social Media Safety by Tricia C. Bailey for specific tips and ideas.
  • Monitor your children’s use of media at home. That could mean using a digital tool such as VISR, or creating an iRules Contract to set up some guidelines for your kids to know their boundaries of use for online media. While these digital tools are all well and good, I will leave you with this quote from Why the Best Parental Control Is You by Christine Elgersma,
The truth is, while clicking a few buttons on a hardware device or downloading a monitoring service seem like no-brainers, the most effective parental control is free and knows your kid very well. That’s right: It’s you. Digital tools and settings can help you stay on top of your kid’s online life, but can’t replace staying involved, having conversations, and helping them make responsible choices.

Together Is Better

I think that it is clear to see how collaboration between parents and teachers is the only way children will truly learn to act safely and appropriately online today. If teachers are teaching it at school, but it is not being reinforced at home, the learning will likely fall on deaf ears. In the same way, if parents are being proactive with their kids at home, but the teacher is not being intentional to teach it in the classroom, kids won’t be prepared to be effective members of our 21st century society. So instead, for the sake of our children’s safety and for their future as adult professionals in the workplace, let’s BOTH take responsibility and come together right now, so that our children of today can be the digital citizen leaders of tomorrow.