By Kay Schmalen, Central Rivers Area Education Agency

The year was 1998, Google had just become a “thing” and not a “verb.” The internet was just beginning to impact our lives. It is 2020 and how we are using the internet has changed. We have moved from consumers of information to creators and contributors. The world has become smaller and everyone, young and old, can influence others across the world!

What it means to be a good digital citizen has also changed. Digital citizenship goes beyond posting inappropriate pictures online and protecting yourself with strong passwords. Digital citizenship is more than just a long list of don’ts, it is a list of “dos.”

DO use technology to make your community better. Students from AGWSR designed “Olivia’s Hand” a movable hand to assist their own classmate and remove barriers.

DO use technology to respectfully debate.

DO use technology to shape public policy. Survivors of the tragedy at Parkland, Florida in 2018 organized March for Our Lives, a movement to end gun violence.

DO use technology to recognize the validity of online sources. “Our ability to recognize truth from fiction is essential for our survival as a society.” Richard Culatta-International Society for Technology Education, CEO

DO practice positive, safe, legal and ethical interactions in online environments such as SnapChat, TickTock, YouTube, Twitter, and online message boards. Check out the story of Kristen Layne, bullied on Facebook when selling her prom dress online. The support she received was overwhelming! As a result, she raised more than enough money to purchase prom dresses for those who couldn’t afford it.

DO manage digital identities and reputations. Remember Carson King?

DO be informed about who is collecting personal data and for what purpose.

Teachers, parents, and adults have a moral and ethical responsibility to teach these skills. These skills don’t just come naturally. Adults should be good modelers of digital citizenship and provide opportunities through real-life situations. Central Rivers Area Education Agency supports educators in meeting this goal in a variety of ways, by providing media resources, professional learning, and student events such as the Annual Assistive Technology Challenge. So I challenge you to commit. Commit to one thing you will do this year to promote digital citizenship in your life and interactions. Share this commitment with others and in 2021 celebrate the impact you’ve made on the important people around you.

Kay Schmalen is a consultant for school improvement and future ready education with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at kschmalen@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers AEA provides leadership and support to children, families and educators in an 18-county region of Iowa with offices in Marshalltown, Cedar Falls and Clear Lake.