Education’s Role In Raising Ethical Digital Citizens

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 2.38.00 PMAs seen in the Marin Independent Journal, January 25, 2015

At the January 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — a gathering of more than 160,000 technology trade association members looking for a piece of the $208 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry — there was a lot of buzz about new products for kids. Like the marketers who place candy at a child’s eye level in grocery stores, tech companies big and small know that youth are a prime target market. And, they’re right.

As an educator and a parent in Marin, our responsibilities to children have changed dramatically as technology options and social media channels have exploded, providing a new platform for curriculum in our classrooms and conversations on our playgrounds. Today, access to both quality and questionable content can seem limitless and it can be difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing digital world in which our children live and learn.

While we must think about the opportunities for integrating technology in learning, perhaps even more importantly we must also inspire and engage children to think about what kind of people they want to be in the online world.

Indeed, with the pervasiveness of communication technology across all sectors of daily life, we are the first generation of educators (and parents) who must think about raising ethical digital citizens.

Making this even more of an imperative, a recent study by the digital advocacy organization, Common Sense Media, found that 75 percent of all kids have access to mobile devices at home, with kids now spending more than 50 hours of screen time every week.

For teens, the prevalence of social media and digital drama in their daily lives continues to increase with the likes of Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, Vine, and the latest app-of-the-day providing a whole new playing field in which our youth gather and express themselves.

With many teens saying they are “addicted” to their devices, these modern day “hang-outs” constantly challenge our youth to make important choices about how they want to show up on online.

Due to the instantaneous nature of social media, these spontaneous choices can often have negative consequences, making proper guidance that much more critical.

At San Domenico, one of the first schools in Marin to implement a 1:1 iPad program, and a Common Sense Media Signature School, we have been thoughtful and intentional about how we integrate technology to enhance and enrich an already strong curriculum. Anchored by our Dominican values of study, reflection, community and service, this includes looking for opportunities to continually inspire our students to make ethical choices and to become exceptional global citizens.

In doing so, we have gained valuable insights into how the combination of technology with proactive teaching and coaching can help students decide how they want their online portrait to look.

While we have experienced the academic, social and emotional benefits of integrating technology into our classrooms, as educators, we have a responsibility to include being arbiters of good online judgment in our curriculum.

As we continue to explore new ways of teaching and evolving with technology, we must include collaboration with parents and experienced resources to share research and best practices that will help us guide our students to make smart, respectful and safe online choices.

Cecily Stock is Head of School at San Domenico School in San Anselmo.

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