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Being a good [digital] citizen

Friday, Oct 06, 2017

Digital, Technology, Responsibility, Citizenship

What is digital citizenship and why is it important?

Digital citizenship is the behavior that makes up responsible digital media use. It guides online interactions and shapes the way we use technology.

For Breck fourth graders, it is also an important part of their curriculum since the fourth-grade year begins Breck’s 1:1 laptop program. This week, Dave Kust, Lower School academic technology coordinator, Karen Pape, fourth grade instructor, and Lisa Heurung, Lower School counselor, hosted an education session for fourth grade families to explain how technology is used in the classroom and how students can be good digital citizens.

“We live in a 24/7 digital media world,” says Kust. Technology supports key components of learning, creating actively engaged learners, individual and collaborative work opportunities, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts.


Students today have already seen and interacted with technology and digital media most of their lives but effective, independent use in the classroom environment is new for them.

Beginning in Kindergarten, Breck students are introduced to technology in their daily curriculum. Using a mix of smartboards, iPads, and other digital media, teachers use a variety of devices to support lessons.

But by the fourth grade, they begin to use technology to support their daily work, bringing the laptop to and from home each day. The goal is to provide and teach students to use the laptop as a learning tool.

“We know that kids naturally want to talk to each other and technology allows them to do so through many engaging platforms,” says Pape. “We use these as tools to collaborate and communicate with each other.” Using the Google Classroom, teachers can post assignments, students can create and submit work and then receive feedback from their teachers.  

Pape explained that the fourth grade teaching team holds students accountable to how students talk with each other. “We want to make sure they are using proper etiquette, such as being polite and clearly stating their request.”

In regards to homework, Pape also explained that the laptop should be viewed as a learning tool, just like a student might use a set of flashcards as another tool. “Even if they are done with homework, they might have other learning opportunities with their laptop.” (such as vocabulary games, in-depth research, etc.)

But even with instruction on how to use technology, it is important that parents remain engaged in monitoring and assisting children in the digital space.

The group was left with a few reminders to create good digital citizens:

  1. Stay informed.

Technology is constantly changing our lives. Stay informed on your child’s social media and technology use and monitor actions online.

  1. Respect age use guidelines.

Most social media companies recommend users be at least 13 years of age. The part of the brain which influences decision making and serves as a “filter” for words and actions, is still developing. Before the age of 13, they are more likely to make comments without realizing the impact and future implications of their words.

  1. Recognize reality.

Spending excessive time monitoring friends’ posts on social media can cause students to be less satisfied with their own lives. Postings on social media are a filtered view of life and typically display exciting images of social gatherings, adventures and fun. While these images are enjoyable, parents need to be aware that their children may not understand that social media gives a limited view of reality. It is important to have open and ongoing communication about putting social media in context.

  1. Set parameters.

“We need to understand and know how to set limits on technology proactively,” says Heurung. “The rules you set and enforce now become family norms. This sets the tone for your children as they enter their teenage years and want more access to technology.

  1. Maintain open communication (even for mistakes).

“Having open communication even for mistakes they make is important,” adds Heurung.. “A mistake doesn’t mean he or she is a bad kid. We must know that kids are going to stumble upon things and parents need to be able to communicate with their children in a way that is not punitive or reactive.”

  1. Model good behavior and strive for balance!