A couple of years back, someone said, “have you ever tried Googling yourself?”
As if Google was a verb, I gave it a go and up popped the last ten years of publishing and sharing online. It stretched back to the days when I was an art adviser. All in all, it was everything I expected to find.
Fast forward a couple of years and I popped my name into Google Insights, under the region of New Zealand, and got, “Not enough search volume to show graphs.” I added Justin Beiber (ask your teenage daughters if this name eludes you) for some comparative data and it indicated some feverish activity from late 2008 to the present day. Add a search term for ‘God’, and we had some serious competition.
What would a Google search reveal about you and yours?
Here’s an exercise, why not ‘Google’ yourself or your children and see what appears.
Interestingly enough, Justin Beiber’s career started on the Internet when he was just 14 after his mum posted videos of him singing on YouTube. Soon after he was discovered by an American talent manager, and “the rest is history”. But, what would have happened if Justin had a tainted and dubious presence online? Who would even know about Justin Beiber now if he had posted images of himself in compromising positions or left a trail of undesirable messages?
When I first started engaging online, I didn’t think about the long-term implications of what it would mean to ‘Google’ my name. Now it means everything to me. When you live, learn, work and play online— especially engaging with social media—it has real long-term implications. What we’re talking about is digital-citizenship or cyber-citizen.
Digital citizenship goes beyond cyber-safety
Digital-citizenship is a concept that goes far beyond cyber-safety. In Core’s Ten Trends 2010, Derek Wenmoth writes:
“These terms refer to what people do online when no one else is looking” and more recently, “Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. It involves understanding the ‘rules’ and boundaries that exist, and involves both rights and responsibilities.”
Living in a cyber world is much like living every day—except with a special emphasis on the appropriate and moral conduct of being online.
The educators role in cyber-citizenship
As educators, it requires considering what it means for our students— when they are growing up in a media saturated world. Access to mobile technologies and the Internet have increased ten-fold. The Internet is now a two-way process rather than a broadcast model, and the implications of this are huge.
Ubiquitous access to information, collaborative learning through social networking and the sharing of knowledge in a global platform, has the potential to help grow good citizens with a sense of ethics and etiquette in the global village. Yet, potential learning opportunities can be outweighed by misconceived ideas about Internet predators, groomers, pornography, online bullying and more. These issues are often sensationalized by the media—which doesn’t help.
While it’s important to teach our students to be Internet savvy (much like being road savvy), it is also important to go beyond the perceived hidden dangers and consider the potential for growing ethical, moral cyber-citizens. This means addressing how we act and behave when communicating with others, what we share and how much we share. Being aware of inappropriate websites and acting in ways that avoid these issues is cyber-safe behaviour, and too important to ignore. It is the crafting of a very visible digital footprint.
What can we do to develop children as digital-citizens?
So, what can we as educators (and parents) do to help our children become well-adjusted digital-citizens?
For a start, if we are proactive about teaching the Key Competencies, this can simply be transferred to how this might look online. Two great resources to help unpack digital-citizenship and the Key Competencies can be found at Key Competencies in a digital age and Netsafe: LGP.
This brings me back to Google—and the issues that surround a name.
When all information is now ‘out there’ (compromising, unethical, immoral, illegal or otherwise), Google’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt responds with a novel solution—change your name.
I have a better suggestion.
Get familiar with the ICT PD Online resources developed to help support both parents and educators mentor our young people to be ethical, moral, savvy digital-citizens. Contribute any resources to NetSafe’s www.mylgp.org.nz, and become part of the conversations at http://ictinenglishnz.blogspot.com/2011/02/safer-internet-day.html