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What is digital citizenship?

Film about digital citizenship
Whether we like it or not in the 21st century we all have a digital identity. From records held about us by private and public organisations to social media and communications with family and friends. We have a digital footprint, created by the way that we live our lives. Sometimes this can seem daunting, even big brother-ish. But if we’re proactive as digital citizens we can take control of our digital identities. As teachers it’s especially important that we know about this sort of thing. Because we share the responsibility with parents to educate children and young people about how to be good citizens of our increasingly digital world.
But before we tackle these issues in the classroom it’s important that we understand them better ourselves. In this short lecture I will cover a number of important issues of digital identity, and digital citizenship, and how we should approach teaching it.
Our digital identity is something we all take for granted. But let’s take a minute and stop and think what it might mean for us personally. Do you own a smartphone? If so count the apps you have a log-in for. These might be shopping apps, games, social media, email, instant messaging, or a whole range of other activities. If you don’t have a smartphone think about what you do online grocery shopping, buying books and clothes, email, community, social media. And even if you don’t have any of these even a store loyalty card means your information is held digitally. And beside all of this is the records of our employers, banks, and services, such as doctors keep about us.
And if, like me, you have a presence in all of these fields you’ll soon realise that your digital identity is really significant. But where is all this information held? And who owns it? Every click, every purchase, every message, every status update creates data. This data is collected and held by the companies and organisations we deal with. And we give permission for this every time we tick a box and agree to the terms and conditions. Most of us don’t read the terms and conditions. And for most of us the collection of this data is not a dangerous thing.
However, we should be aware that when we hand over our details and our data we’re trusting these companies and organisations with our security. And when our security is breached it hits the headlines. What is less discussed is the value of this data.
Let’s take Facebook as an example. As an individual I’m not especially interesting. The status updates, connections, and check-ins of one middle-aged woman are not really worth much. But if you put my data together with that created by thousands of other middle-aged women it becomes interesting to the people whose job it is to sell things to middle-aged women. Looking at the adverts I’m offered this seems to be mostly about weight loss and anti-wrinkle cream, neither of which really interests me, but there you go. If you’re from a different demographic you’ll get a different set of adverts. These are tailored for you by the data you create. In essence this isn’t dangerous.
But it’s something we should be aware of and make choices about. It’s your data. Be aware of how it’s used.
All of the data that we create ourselves creates a digital footprint. And to some extent you have control of that. But we also need to be aware of another aspect of our data, over which we have less control. This is our digital shadow. This is the name given to the identity that others create about us online. It might be photos tagged in social media, or using our name in a blog post. This is harder to control and something that we all need to be aware of. If you’re not sure about what your digital footprint or your digital shadow looks like, then you need to try doing an internet search for yourself and see what turns up.
If you can’t find yourself right away try keywords about where you work or where you live. How visible you are online depends on the size of your digital footprint, and your digital shadow, and how many people share your name.
So what do we know about how children and young people use social media? From Ofcom’s report into young people in the media, we know that 4 in 10 of 12 to 15-year-olds mostly use a mobile phone to visit their main social networking profile, which makes this the most popular device for accessing their profiles. We know that 68% of 12 to 15-year-olds use social media of some kind, with a whopping 97% of those having a Facebook profile. This is a lot of social media use. Though the numbers are falling slightly compared to recent years. In the next video we’ll find out about how the technology of the internet has developed and how that affects the way people use it.
But it’s worth considering here who owns what on the internet. Certainly, although we have the right to control the data we input, we sign away the right to control its use when we clicked and to agree to terms and conditions whenever we sign up for a new service. What do we need to do about all of this as teachers? At the beginning of this lecture, I talked about how important it is for teachers to understand these issues in order to teach about them. If we’re to help children and young people become proactive and positive digital citizens we need to teach about these issues at every stage. Here are my suggestions starting from the very beginning of children’s school careers.
In the early years foundation stage, and at key stage one, children might have limited independent use of the internet. But where they do use school systems, like VLEs or email, they should understand the purpose of security systems like usernames and passwords. The sooner they have their own personal username and password the better. It helps them understand why this sort of information is highly important and very personal later on. Teachers can also demonstrate their own use of such security features when they’re using online resources. Most schools ask parents to sign an acceptable ICT agreement for on behalf of their children when they enter school. This is an important opportunity to begin a dialogue about the use of the internet with parents.
And ideally this agreement should be accompanied by some sort of information to parents about e-safety. Some schools also offer parents information sessions. And it’s never too early to start discussing this issue, given the ubiquitous nature of connected devices today. Into key stage two, children are likely to become more independent users of technology, both at home and at school. This is a good time to start good habits. As well as using secure usernames and passwords children should be aware of the information all around them that’s held digitally. There are many opportunities to explain how data, for instance from their school lunch preferences or their medical records, is kept and secured.
It’s also at this time that children start to want to push the boundaries, in terms of age restricted films and computer games. They also begin to create their own photos and movies. And it’s a good time to start discussing people’s consent to being photographed, and videoed, and the impact of sharing images. Into secondary school two important changes happen. Firstly there’s a significant leap in the ownership of smartphones, with 62% of 12 to 15-year-olds owning one. At this time many children also start to use social media. Although Facebook terms and conditions stipulate that the minimum age to have an account is 13 many children start to use social media from the beginning of their secondary school, and some even earlier.
From time to time we hear sad stories about young people driven to harm themselves as a result of cyberbullying. And although bullying is not new, digital media means that bullying can be more public, and follow the victim into their home. What constitutes cyberbullying is varied. And it changes with each new devices and application. But teachers need to be aware of the issues and the signs of cyberbullying. Be prepared to address them, not only in e-safety lessons, but where they’re raised throughout the curriculum. As children reach the end of their school careers and begin to consider further study and the world of work they need to become increasingly aware of their public digital footprint.
This involves understanding how and why it’s important to use privacy settings on social media carefully. And how images and data, which seem to have been deleted from a device, may still be accessible. They also need to understand how to protect their own devices from things like viruses and cyber attacks. In summary in this lecture we’ve considered the issue of digital identity and how it contributes to being a digital citizen. We’ve considered children, young people’s, use of the internet and how it changes as they get older. And what we might do to respond to that in order to better equip them to be good digital citizens.

In this lecture, Helena talks about the different aspects of digital citizenship, and the issues this raises for teachers. This is intended as an introduction to this topic, which has implications both in computing and in the wider school.

We have also provided some links to important e-safety resources as part of this activity, which will help in addressing some of the issues raised here in your school.

Considering digital citizenship as discussed here, what do you think is the biggest priority for your teaching? What do you plan to do about it, and how will you know if you’ve had an impact?
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