News Flash! Digital Citizenship is More Important Now Than Ever



Kids are at home and online more than ever, with most parents busier than ever too. I should know, I write this with a two-year old and five-year old at home. Thankfully they are not online yet, but for those of you with kids who are digitally connected, you could be in store for some troubling times ahead. Here’s why.


Tech companies would like you to believe there are safeguards in place to keep kids secure online, but that’s fairly laughable. Face it, tech companies are in business to make money. Why do you think consuming online information, participating in social media and gaming are so addictive? It’s because tech companies create platforms that make us want to be constantly glued to their services, while being barraged by advertising. Think cigarettes/ vaping…do you think Big Tobacco really cares about kids’ safety? It’s about the bottom line.


Face it, tech companies are in business to make money.

Parents, we can’t be complacent and let tech (or tobacco) companies fool us. Kids need to learn how to use technology ethically, safely and productively. They need to be taught that they’re actually paying for so-called “free” apps with their personal information. They need to know the boundaries and “rules of the road” inside the information superhighway. They need to learn empathy, and how to be an ethical digital citizen. They need to know how not to fall for or spread online misinformation. They must know how to avoid cyberbullying and sexting. They need to learn strategies to keep them and their personal information safe. And they need to learn how to be a productive digital citizen, not a mindless consumer.

Schools around the world are beginning to preempt problems that arise with their students using so much digital media. Offering a digital citizenship course at school has become very trendy. This is because no school is exempt from problems that come out of kids using media. Whether it be a 10:00 pm group chat where cyberbullying or racially insensitive comments occur. Or a student posting a video on Instagram where they’re smoking a cigarette. Or even students involved in sexting/sextortion. The list of digital activities that kids engage in today goes on and on.


Kids Need Digital Citizenship Lessons and Kids WANT Digital Citizenship Lessons


My favorite time of the day is when I get to teach Digital Citizenship, Information Literacy and Media Literacy to middle school students. My students enjoy these lessons because they get to learn and talk about something they love so much – their devices and social media. I love it because I get to witness aha moments each and every time I teach.


I love it because I get to witness aha moments each and every time I teach.

One of my favorite lessons is when 6th graders put their feet into the shoes of college admission officials. They’re given two candidates with only one spot available and must choose the best option. Each candidate comes with a packet with pages consisting of their past social media moments (for better or worse). You get the picture.


I’m teaching these lessons on a weekly basis (remotely, at the moment) using Cyber Civics. Beginning in 6th grade, my students get lessons that scaffold each other so topics make sense. Why is this important? Because students learn through repetition. They won’t learn much about these complicated topics through a lesson here and there throughout the year. Or having a guest speaker that comes in and lectures them or uses scare tactics.


That’s what makes Cyber Civics so different from other curricula. Over 80 lessons, for middle school, build upon each other in a way that makes sense to young minds.


My kids are still young, but I hope that Digital Citizenship courses keep trending upwards and upwards. Some states mandate it be taught. Does your state? Does your school teach digital citizenship and/or digital literacy? As I stated above, kids need these lessons and kids WANT these lessons. Let’s do our part, do the research, make the investment…because it will pay off in spades down the road, for all of us.


Author: Peter Kelley has always had a passion for teaching and working with kids. In 2011 he made the switch from the business sector and earned his Single Subject Teaching Credential in English. He was a teacher and head coach for both the Boys and Girls Tennis Programs at Aliso Viejo High School in Aliso Viejo, CA for the next 6 years. Peter now works full time for Cyber Civics. In his role as Outreach Director he is in constant contact with schools, marketing the program, and helping schools onboard and implement. He also teaches Cyber Civics at Journey School, and makes presentations to schools and organizations. He resides in San Clemente, CA with his wife and two young children and feels this is “the perfect fit” for his passions and skill sets. Peter earned a degree in Communication from the University of Portland in 2001.

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