Developing a Whole-School Digital Citizenship Program

A couple of weeks ago Judy O’Connell shared this clever but confronting video showing how easy it is for anyone to access personal details that we share online.  It is such a good video that we have incorporated it into a Year 9 unit about using the internet in responsible and ethical ways.

I have been very interested in digital citizenship for a number of years now, ever since I heard Vicki Davis speak about it at an ISTE conference a few years ago.  Since then I have collected a lot of useful links and information for students, organised into the 9 categories originally proposed by Mike Ribble, creator of the term ‘digital citizenship.’  I have also presented at a couple of seminars on how to develop a digital citizenship program in your school.

Towards the end of last year I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar on cyber safety presented by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, leading Australian psychologist and avid proponent for the emotional well-being of children and teens. His presentation opened my eyes to the overall scope of activities that need to be implemented in schools.  Essentially, he said:

  • Cyber bullying is a problem in every school (as is traditional bullying).
  • In susceptible individuals, cyber bullying can lead to self-harm and suicide.
  • Parents are an essential link in helping to prevent this.
  • Schools have a duty of care to show visible evidence that they have educated parents and students about the potential problems and possible solutions.
  • Schools need to push information out to parents, via newsletters, emails and websites.
  • Schools need to have an active cyber citizenship program in place for students.
  • Schools need to involve students in the drafting of policies.
  • Families are now starting to sue schools/education departments in Australia as a result of persistent bullying (and win).
  • Schools need to show they have an overarching ethos – eg QSAFE Declaration, Kandersteg Declaration, National Safe Schools Framework and they need to be able to show regularly updated policies for dealing with cyber safety issues.

Matthew Jorgensen, eLearning Manager at Coomera Anglican College, is well on the way towards achieving these goals at his school. On his website,  The Cybersafety Net, he has organised resources into year level themes, and made these freely available for anyone to use. His blog also shows how the school has been regularly sending cybersafety information out to parents, and the initiatives they have been involved in to make students responsible and ethical internet users.

For all of us, it’s a challenging journey, but also an exciting opportunity to guide students towards digital leadership and harnessing the power of the internet for good.

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