Street smarts were always looked at as important for me when I was growing up. I grew up in a relatively small city in Canada, but I didn’t always live in the best neighborhoods. My family was large and scattered around various areas throughout a place called Halifax, Nova Scotia (Home of Theodore Tugboat).
Some lived in public housing, and others lived in middle class neighborhoods. I spent a lot of time in both. I also spent a lot of time running around unsupervised with my cousins and had to be smart about where I went and what I did.
My parents were great and gave me the right amount of freedom and knowledge to navigate these neighborhoods without getting hurt or doing something stupid. I wasn’t perfect…..but I mostly made good choices. It was because of their guidance, along with my teachers, that I could handle myself in many different social situations. They gave me the freedom to demonstrate on a daily basis that I could be trusted and they taught me “street smarts. ” This is not something that I only attribute to knowing how to maneuver around a city, but it also encompasses how to be a good and responsible citizen….anywhere….anytime….with anyone.
So why is this any different than digital citizenship? We are citizens all the time after all aren’t we? Even online.
The only difference is that we have a few different ways to interact, and a few more ways to be accountable. As teachers, it’s our job to ensure we teach students how to use knowledge so that we impact society in positive ways. Of course, we should also be teaching how to do this online. If we ignored this aspect of social development then we would be ignoring a huge chunk of our student’s lives. This is a job for both parents and teachers. We are in this together.
I saw a quote from Kevin Honeycutt that said “ Our kids are growing up on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty.” Both educators and parents need to take as much responsibility for a child’s ability to be safe and smart online as they do in their day to day lives. I doubt a teenager would be allowed to go out for the first time alone without a parent before they had a talk about rules and curfew. Well it’s the same with chat-rooms (if they’re still a thing) and social media. They WILL go there so they need the tools to interact safely and responsibly. Didn’t Uncle Ben once say to Spiderman “with freedom comes great responsibility?” well yeah this is basically the same.
I found a great infographic at a website called An Ethical Island outlining some of the many ways people can be responsible digital citizens. Examples would include Respect: respecting others’ point of view and accepting that it is meaningful to have different opinions, Give: giving author’s credit for their work, and Participate: participate with other cultures on the internet.
If you think about it, these are words that apply to someone just being a good person in general. On and offline. We can’t ignore the digital world. Kids today interact within it just as much as they do out of it. We will have to make efforts as educators to ensure they know how to use it properly.