There are three character traits that every digital citizen needs, respect for self and others, an understanding of how to find and use information properly, and being safe online. These are commonly known as digital etiquette, as digital law, rights, and responsibilities, and digital safety/ security. These are skills that should be taught as soon as a child starts to go on the internet.

Why are each of these characteristics worthy of recognizing and emulating? They are the backbone of using the internet in a responsible manner. Each of these is required for true digital citizenship.

The first characteristic is respect for self and others. This means that before anything is posted you ask yourself, is this something you are comfortable with everyone seeing, including your grandmother. Ask, is this polite? Am I being respectful? Is this a picture or post I will always be proud that I made? Is everyone I mention going to be pleased they are in this post or will someone be mad at me? Is this something that I want someone I don’t know to judge me by? If the answer is yes you should be comfortable making the post.

The second characteristic is understanding how to find and use information properly. The first step is learning how to search effectively. The website Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search put out by Time has some tips that will greatly speed up searches that you make and increase the accuracy of those searches. There is sound that starts as soon as the site comes up. This site gives more detailed information. The next step is using that information responsibly. This means understanding what plagiarism is in both writing and using pictures. Responsible use means understanding copy-write laws and looking for pictures that have a Creative Commons licence. There are many lessons that can be used in the classroom based on age. De Montfort University has a fairly easy guide to using material on the internet that adults would find helpful.

The third characteristic is internet safety and security. This is a topic that should be revisited regularly. A great source of lesson plans can be found at Common Sense Media. Their educators tab gives a great variety of resources. I’ve used the digital ibooks with my grandchildren and would love the opportunity to use them in a classroom environment. Our school district is not an iPad district so that isn’t a possibility currently. Everyone needs to learn how to be safe on the internet and keep their information secure. When a child first gets on the internet they should know not to share any personal information. This site goes over basic rules to review with children.

To be a good digital citizen you need to think before posting, think before using material from the internet, and think about staying safe.

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