Thursday, January 29, 2015

Part 4: Developing Responsible Technology Users

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Dan Callahan:

In my previous post, we discussed the importance of developing information literacy among children. Equally vital in today's society is digital citizenship. More simply, our children must know how to use digital resources in a responsible, appropriate and ethical manner.  In my opinion, the most important place for children to learn proper digital citizenship is in the home. The problem is that many parents are uneducated in this area themselves. As discussed in the first post of this series, the example set by parents and other adults of influence in a child's life will make more of an impact than anything else and this issue of digital citizenship is no exception.

While it may not be realistic for all parents to become experts on digital citizenship, it is possible to develop a basic understanding of the most important issues including Internet etiquette, respect of others' intellectual property and safety. Common Sense Media and the National Cyber Security Alliance have put together some excellent resources for families that can be accessed at the following links:

Common Sense Media: Connecting Families

Raising Digital Citizens

Within this area of digital citizenship, I want to specifically focus on the use of social media for the remainder of this post. Social media has become a mainstay in our society and it is more important than ever that our children learn how to use social media tools safely and responsibly. While kids are very comfortable using popular social media tools such as Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat etc..., very few ever receive guidance from parents in the area of social media use. In my experience, most parents take a very hands off approach in this area and let the kids figure it out on their own or worse, attempt to prevent them from using social media altogether. In this era where social media is an integral part of our daily lives, this simply cannot be. If parents do not teach children how to use social media safely and responsibly, they will probably learn from somewhere else and it is unlikely to be safe and responsible use that they learn.

The fact of the matter is that we as parents must take the lead and teach our children how to use social media safely and responsibly. We cannot allow our personal feelings toward social media diminish the need to model appropriate and productive use. Rather than avoiding or preventing the use of social media, we must come alongside our children and guide them. While there is no single correct way to handle this issue, the following action steps are ones that I have found to be particularly helpful:
  1. Know what social media tools your children use - This one might seem obvious but many parents have no idea what social media services their children use. The easiest way to find out is check their mobile devices on a regular basis. The frequency in which you check a child's device may vary depending on the age and maturity level of the child; however, you as the parent have every right to know what social media services your children are using. 
  2. Become familiar with the safety and privacy features available within each social media service your child uses - Each social media service typically provides their own unique safety and privacy features. Take advantage of these features as you deem appropriate. 
  3. Establish clear boundaries and expectations - Social media is no different from anything else in a child's life. It is healthy for you as the parent to set clear boundaries and expectations regarding how it is used along with consistent consequences for misuse. 
  4. ALWAYS model safe and responsible social media use - Connect with your children on some of the social media services they use and model the behaviors you expect. The importance of this cannot be overstated. It is imperative that children see the adult role models in their life using social media tools safely, responsibly and productively. The example you set as the parent will have a far greater impact than any other factor mentioned. 
The following are some helpful social media resources for parents:

15 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to Beyond Facebook

Top Social Networks & Apps Your Kids Use

A Parents' Guide to Protecting Kids' Privacy on Social Media

It is my sincere hope that this series has been helpful in equipping you with some of the basic knowledge and resources necessary to better prepare your children in becoming responsible technology users. Please feel free to comment with any questions or ideas for further discussion. 

Part 1: Leading By Example

Part 2: Setting Clear Rules & Boundaries
Part 3: Information Literacy

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Part 3: Developing Responsible Technology Users

"Information Literacy" is a common buzzword/phrase that is becoming increasingly more common in the world of education and something I believe is especially important for parents to consider in their effort to develop responsible users of technology. Before moving forward, it is necessary to recognize what this term actually means. I like the definition communicated through Wesleyan University which states: "Information literacy involves recognizing when information is needed and being able to efficiently locate, accurately evaluate, effectively use, and clearly communicate information in various formats." With this basic understanding of information literacy, parents can better evaluate whether these skills are being encouraged and developed in both school and at home. More importantly, parents must ask themselves: "Are we doing anything to help our children develop solid information literacy skills?"

In today's world where digital literacy is an essential skill, it is imperative that parents take an active role in helping their children develop the skills they need to be successful. To simplify things even further, I believe it is especially important that children develop the following skills:

  1. The ability to locate information
  2. The ability to analyze and evaluate the quality/credibility of information
  3. The ability to organize information
  4. The ability to share information
For help in learning how to better find information on the web, check out this 8-part series I created for students at our school:

Google Search Tips and Tricks

Not only is it important that children can find the information they need, they must also be able to analyze and evaluate the quality/credibility of that information. With the amount of information out there, this can be a very daunting task but it is important that parents at least have a basic understanding of how to evaluate information found on the Internet. The following resources are helpful in getting started:

Common Sense Media Tip Sheet on Research and Evaluation

Evaluating Web Information via UNC Asheville

How To Do Research via The Kentucky Virtual Library (great resource for younger kids)

Once a child has located quality information, it is important to have a place to organize and share that information. Social bookmarking tools such as Diigo are a great tool for this exact purpose. Diigo is a free cloud-based service that allows you to bookmark and annotate any resource found on the web and categorize it with specific tags for easy organization and future reference. Anything bookmarked within Diigo can also be shared with others publicly through groups. Group members can also add their own resources to the group making this a powerful collaborative research tool. For more information on Diigo, check out this brief intro video:

Diigo Intro

Collectively, these specific information literacy skills are critically important for success in today's information-rich world. Parents simply cannot afford to take a hands-off approach with these skills and assume they are being learned at school. If you are a parent (or educator), take the time to learn some of these basic skills so you can help guide your children more effectively in locating, evaluating, organizing and sharing the immense amount of information available through the web. 

In the next post, we will discuss the importance of digital citizenship and how we can better develop children who are good digital citizens on the web. If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of this series, you can check them out through the following links:

Part 1
Part 2