Why is it important to educate young adolescents about digital citizenship?
Technology's influence is at the forefront of an adolescents existence. Many often spend countless hours in online activities such as communicating, searching, reading, online-gaming and according to my students, the preferred-hobby of social networking. According to the Association for Middle Level Education (2010) young adolescents experience rapid physical and emotional changes which distinctly affects their perceptions of themselves and those around them. The frontal lobe of an adolescent brain, though not fully matured, continues to develop. In addition to other noticeable physical changes adolescents have to endure there adolescents often react quickly without thinking things through. To further compound their ability to engage in reckless and risky behaviors, the adolescent's use of technology can have reverberating effect to either improve a life or affect another. It is thus important as teacher's to guide our students in the use of technology.
What can teachers do?
- Teach a lesson on the ethical uses of technology (Have students list the positive and negative uses of technology. Have a class discussion on the effects of online bullying and trolling).
- Educate students on online safety.
- Be available to talk and converse freely with students.
- Promote proper, legal and ethical uses of technology in the classroom
- Encourage proper, legal and ethical uses of technology at home
An activity to promote empathy amongst my students would be through role-playing. Students would be asked to write their birthdate on a piece of paper. Afterwards they are asked to list all the hurtful words they've said to someone or what someone has said to them. Each student would place their list in a box at the center of the room. With the teacher mixing up the papers in the box, each student would be asked to proceed to the center of the room to select a paper from the box (they should not pick what they wrote). At the center of the room a cardboard cutout framed with the name of a popular social network site and other gadgets written boldly around the frame is placed at the center propped against the cardboard box. One by one each student is asked to read out the words on the paper staring directly at the frame (it is possible there may be profanity but ask the students to use their own judgement when they see it listed). At the end the student would say out the birthdate written on the paper. That would be a call for the owner of that paper to stand up. The reader would approach the student and they would both tear the paper up and throw it in the box at the center of the room. The reading would continue until everyone has had their paper read.
The gesture and idea behind this activity would be for the students to be exposed to what is going on with others around them. Name-calling, teasing, bullying and the lack of regard with one's words affects everyone even if its done behind a computer screen.
Another activity for the students would be to list the positive and negative aspects of technology and then in groups find ways to identify possible solutions and ways each aspect can be used to promote a safe digital experience. Students would create a collage of pictures and words that would describe their work and then present it to the class.