by Luis Fernando Macias, Language and Literature Junior High School Teacher, Fundación Colegio Americano de Puebla

Society has Codes of Conduct; the Internet Does Too

As inhabitants of the world, of a country, of a city, or even of our neighborhood, we know the social norms and rules that allow us to have a happy and regulated coexistence in the environments in which we operate. And just as there are codes of conduct, established by laws or socially learned, that we continue to interact with others in a respectful and orderly manner, there are also codes within the internet world. This is called digital citizenship and we need to teach it to our students. But first, we must be familiar with the concept as teachers. Below I will present some basic aspects that will help you with that task.

What is Responsible Digital Citizenship?

A responsible digital citizen is one who thinks critically, protects his personal information, and maintains good privacy habits. 

Just as we keep our most valuable possessions locked up and learn to take care of ourselves when we walk the streets, the personal information we share online is also worth a lot! And as such, we need to learn to take care of it so that not everyone can access it. If we do not set an example for our students, or worse yet we do not know how to protect ourselves, our students will not surf the web safely.

Similarly, just as one must be active in protecting personal information, one must also be critical in questioning what is consumed from the internet. As teachers, it is our duty to train students to learn to find the right information in the right places, and to discern and report when something is false, harmful or offensive; likewise, to avoid behaving that way when they create their own content.

Empower Your Students with Essential Tips

There are several recommendations to know how to protect personal information on the internet. Given the amount of information available, I will provide a few key recommendations to start the work with your students.

    1. Creation of strong passwords. Many times, to prevent the password from being forgotten, we create it using data known to many as the name of the couple, date of birth or favorite color. Doing this makes our information vulnerable. That is why we have to generate strong passwords that are 8 to 9 characters and that combine lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols and numbers. Good news is that most websites already force users to do so; one tip is that several internet browsers suggest passwords with those characteristics when registering on sites, and it is enough to log in to the browser so that we can easily access with those passwords, although this is recommended only when using personal computers, not shared. One more tip: think of a phrase you remember, take the initials of that phrase and form a password using the elements mentioned previously.
    2. Review data privacy and access settings. When creating an account on a website, we tend to ignore its privacy conditions. But most of them offer the user the option to manually review and modify these conditions. They are based on determining what personal data is visible and for whom it is. When working with school accounts, it is suggested that students have a configuration of visibility of their data and files for members of the same organization, and blocking them for the general public. Another tip is that if we need to occupy apps outside the school accounts, ask them to link their login using their same school account either Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo; Most educational applications allow you to do it.
    3. Download apps only from official stores and check system updates. If your students have their own personal computer or use their mobile devices in class, we have to teach them to protect themselves from viruses or hackers that could damage their devices. A basic rule is that they only download apps from official stores, for example Play Store or iOs; In addition, in this way you can review the qualifications of other users and know if the application works correctly or has failures. Students should also be taught to log out of all their accounts and delete their search history constantly; most internet browsers allow you to do it with one click by going to the configuration options. Finally, you have to teach them to constantly check if there are system updates available, and to install them on their devices; Although most operating systems already do it automatically, many times they ask for the user’s authorization and the students have to be aware if the device is requesting it.
    4. Learn to look for information from reliable sites. Since the internet is full of a lot of junk information, it is easy for students to take the first thing that appears in the search engine when conducting an investigation and that is what they deliver as work without the need to verify their reliability. A first step is to search for information from sites that we know will be reliable; regularly those with terminations .org or .gov, according to the language in which the search is conducted, will offer official information. Another recommendation is that the article has the author’s name, publication date and a reliable source that supports it, for example a newspaper or an association. Finally, students should be asked to follow this rule: compare three sources of information, with an opposite point of view; so they can have a better position of the facts they investigate.

Modeling Best Practices

The issue of digital citizenship is very broad and the above points are just some recommendations to begin to develop with your students. As you put these points into practice, you can learn more about the subject yourself through different tutorials and certifications available on the web. Remember that the students we are in charge of are moldable young people who will learn what we show them, including our behavior. Therefore, be the first to take the step to teach them how to use the internet safely and securely.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luis Fernando Macias lives in Puebla, Mexico. He’s been a Language and Literature teacher at Colegio Americano de Puebla since 2015 and is a Level 1 Google Certified Educator. He is a communicator by profession, Christian by conviction, teacher by vocation and cinephile at heart.

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