Digital Citizenship

photo credit: http://cybraryman.com/digcit.html

As I write this, I’m sitting in the barber shop in my town waiting for a haircut. It’s Saturday morning and it has been quite a busy week at school.
I’m not in school now, but I would like to reach out to students at my school to engage them in a discussion about what it takes to be a responsible member of this “flat” global society.
Part of my job as Assistant Principal at North Attleboro High School is to enforce the code of conduct. This is a document that was created by a whole range of stakeholders in our community–I’m not sure how long ago–and approved by the School Committee, which is board of citizens elected by folks in the town to oversee the entire school system.
Sometime, students who are sent to me for breaking a rule in the code of conduct tell me that they disagree with a rule or that they don’t see the purpose behind that rule. Much of my job is explaining why the rule is necessary. Sometimes I agree that the rule, as written is outdated; however, my job is to enforce the rules not make them.
They get that in making sure everyone complies with the rules, the school can remain a place that is safe and conducive to learning. They often don’t see their own role in keeping the school environment a place that all students feel safe and comfortable in.
We all want to live in a world that accepts us for who we are, treats us fairly, and allows us to work to our full potential.
When we as citizens become aware of something that makes us feel less safe, or less able to learn, we are required by our social contract to step forward to help rectify that situation.
In school nowadays, students live in a connected world. They often don’t distinguish between friends they have in real life and friends they have on social media. Conversations had on social media are just as important and meaningful as conversations had with people face to face.
When someone says something on social media outside of school, it often impacts the school learning environment, and therefore becomes a school issue.
Sometimes students get themselves in trouble in school for the statements they make outside of school on social media. When I have to discipline these students, I look at that conversation as an opportunity to instruct that student in digital citizenship.
As fully connected members of a digital world, we have to each do our part to ensure that our digital world is free of hatred, threats, intimidation, and harassment. We don’t stand for those things in school and so we will not stand for them in social media.
Digital citizenship is a commitment to be responsible. Each of us in in complete control of the content we create a post online. But it goes farther than that. We are also responsible to call out or report instances of abuse. This isn’t to be “holier than thou,” it’s just so that we can make sure our digital world reflects the values that infuse our physical world. I know the world is not free of hatred, violence, and the like. There is space for freedom of speech. But that speech should not openly threaten, intimidate or otherwise infringe upon the rights of others.

I would love to hear from students.  What’s your take on being a responsible digital citizen?  Let me know what you think!

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