Children are getting more screen time than ever—a side effect of the pandemic’s impact on our usual routines.
It’s not just the pandemic, however. Kids’ media preferences are changing as new apps and sleeker technology make it easier to stay connected (and be entertained) wherever they go. Just in the past four years, we’ve seen dramatic shifts in online video viewing, smartphone ownership, and more.
Technology and the internet are omnipresent—and today’s youth must be equipped with skills to safely consume, evaluate, and share information online—including how they interact with their peers.
Here are three considerations for nurturing students into responsible cyber citizens.
Address cyberbullying and internet trolls
59 percent of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, according to a study from Pew Research. The prominence of cyberbullying has made it imperative for schools to implement new policies—and teach students how to use technology safely.
To address issues of online bullying, teachers can lean on steps compiled by stopbullying.gov:
- Notice – Recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.
- Talk – Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
- Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
- Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it the school. You can also contact app or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
- Support – Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content posts about a child. Public Intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
Schools must also be prepared to address the issue of “internet trolls”— individuals who post false or inflammatory remarks on social media, usually to promote a cause or harass someone.
Cybersecurity 101: Digital footprints
Thanks to technology, our posts can be shared (and reshared) within seconds. Over time, online activities begin to form trails of information—digital footprints.
To help students protect their digital footprints, teachers can have students reflect on the three pillars of cybersecurity: confidentiality, integrity and availability.
- Confidentiality of information is the assurance that it is only accessible to the people who are authorized to view it.
- Integrity refers to the assurance that data is not modified or deleted by someone who is not authorized to.
- Availability means that users can access data when needed. Cybercriminals typically exploit this through website attacks and malware.
It’s also important to note the connection between digital footprints and cyberbullying. An article from UNICEF explains:
“Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other. But cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.”
Students should be encouraged to reflect before they share something online. Is it something they’d want the whole world to see? Asking this simple question now can help avoid challenges down the road.
Navigating misinformation and “fake news”
Social media has become incredibly important in business, politics and our personal lives. It can be a source of entertainment, a method for keeping in touch with friends and family and a political platform—it is also a popular avenue for fake news.
Resource: The Importance of Critical Thinking in the Age of Fake News (School Library Journal)
Misinformation spreads six times faster in comparison to credible news on Twitter. By encouraging students to think critically about the media they consume, teachers can help them separate fact from fiction.
Empower students through cyber citizenship
In today’s digital world, tech-savviness is no longer optional. To support educators in introducing students to the fundamentals of cybersecurity and digital citizenship, NCG offers a Cyber Citizenship course.
Technology-related competencies are no longer optional; they are critical for success in post-secondary education, the workforce and our personal lives. By taking a holistic and proactive approach, we can empower students to become responsible digital citizens.
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