Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Digital citizenship

My thanks to Darcy1968 on Twitter for this one.

I hadn't heard the phrase digital citizenship. When I did via Darcy I was very suspicious. You see, the school curriculum is now absolutely clogged with material that falls in the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" class. I wondered whether or not this was simply another example of the same.

   I have now done some digging. You will find the NSW school material here. You will also find an interesting commentary on kid's take-up of new apps here.

I don't think that some of the material will work for the same reason that anti-bullying material doesn't work. The two are connected. You can give kids information, but you won't necessarily affect behaviour. you have to rely on other things for that.

As parents whose children grew up in the digital age, we did not attempt to control their use of the internet in detail in the same way that we did not try to censor books in detail. We simply relied on our closeness to the kids, on the general values that we were trying to inculcate. However, we did try to warn them of dangers.

We weren't so much worried about things like sexual predators, although that can be an issue in some cases. Our concern lay in the need to ensure that they did not put material on-line that might later come back to haunt them.

To illustrate this, try a web search on "Jim Belshaw". The last time I did this there were over 46,000 web references. Not all on me, of course, but a lot are. It's hard to believe that just ten years ago there were less than a thousand. I can run, but it's a bit difficult to hide!

There is a bit of a myth today that young people have a different attitude to privacy than their parents. It is true, I think, that their views on just what is private have shifted. However, they are actually just as sensitive about the issues that they consider to be important, so they need to learn judgement. They don't want to end up like their father trying to work out how to manage a digital footprint grown far beyond original expectations!

Speaking again from my own experience, there are two issues that I would like to get across to kids. The first is the danger of misinterpretation in a world where words or messages lack context. The second is simply the importance of good manners.

Overall, I think that the idea of digital citizenship is a good one because the phrase bears upon a key on-line concept, that of community. Citizenship and community are linked.    

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