I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a single photo of me on the Internet before the age of 13. And that photo I posted myself and I wanted it to be there. But it’s common practice now for to parents to post hundreds or thousands of photos of their babies and children on various Internet platforms.
A 2010 study by AVG, an Internet security firm, found that 81 percent of children worldwide have an online presence before the age of 2.
It is common now for parents to post sonogram photos of their growing babies and thus begin their online presence before they are even born. Some parents even create social media accounts on behalf of their babies and young children.
You may have seen this slightly hilarious but cringe-worthy viral video. But have you ever considered the impact it will have on this child later in life? Did he give consent to have this video posted?
Personally, I consider the content of this video inappropriate. Clearly this child is distressed and needs to be cared for, not recorded. I don’t believe that at his age (or level of consciousness) that he could give his permission for this to be posted. It’s also important to consider the child’s personality and how they will react to the video later in life. Will he would be mortified or fin it hilarious? I know that I wouldn’t be thrilled if a video like this of myself went viral with over 120 million views. Sounds pretty embarrassing to me.
I don’t have children of my own yet, and I have time to decide what content/how much if any I would post about them. What will impact me much sooner, is the digital footprint of my students. I am hoping to teach primary students so I must be prepared to handle the unique challenges they bring in this world of ever changing technology. I will have to deal with the reality of teaching young children who have a social media presence before they even begin school. How will I combat or contribute to their digital identity? How can I help them become responsible digital citizens?
Currently, topics such as privacy and safety, the consequences of sexting, cyber bullying prevention and response, and occasionally digital citizenship are taught most often beginning in Grade 4 and upwards. But children are exposed to and using the Internet so much earlier than that! We need to begin educating students about responsible Internet use as soon as they enter school, starting as soon as Kindergarten.
The challenges I will face for teaching primary students about digital citizenship are different from those of older elementary.
1)Discrepancies between what I am doing in my classroom versus what they do when they go home. I worry that the practices I implement will be disrupted as soon as the students go home where there are different rules and expectations.
2) Finding balance. “Understanding past, present, and possible future effects of technology. Cultivating a sense of balance that considers opportunity as well as responsibility, empowerment as well as caution, personal fulfillment as well as community and global well-being.”
3) Screen time. Will I be able to explain to parents the difference between active and passive screen time? Will they understand that the technology used in my classroom for learning is different from their child playing games or watching videos on a tablet at home?
Of course teaching responsibility and citizenship can be plugged into many subject areas and outcomes, but I think the best approach would be to infuse digital citizenship education into every day. Likely, my students will be using some form of technology at least once a day, so they can learn responsible use and about the impact they make at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a formal lesson that is taught explicitly. Digital citizenship can be taught more organically and continuously.
I’m sure there are no easy answers to my questions. Likely this is something I have to figure out along the way by collaborating with colleagues. But I am up for the challenge.