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By Ms. Neenu Thomas
Business Development Manager – Panworld Education, UAE

The term Digital Citizenship refers to “the responsibility in utilizing technology and etiquette pertaining to an online presence”.

As technology grows more prevalent in students’ lives, it is becoming increasingly vital for educators to model and teach positive, safe, legal, and ethical online behaviour. As the COVID-19 pandemic exposes millions of students to communicate remotely, the issue of cultivating appropriate digital citizenship has never been more consequential.

One of the consequences we hope to see from COVID-19 is a massive emphasis among leaders on how to best promote effective digital learning. A unified vision on what digital citizenship denotes to certain groups and how classrooms might avail students establish the substratum is critical.

Why should Digital Citizenship be taught in schools?

  1. Information Literacy

With the availability of Google, Wikipedia, and other reference sites, finding knowledge is now easier than ever. The difficulty now is in sorting through, comprehending, and applying this data. Teaching digital literacy equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to not only use the internet and technology to their advantage, but also to use it in the most efficient ways possible to find information and communicate with the ever-growing number of sites and modes of communication available to them.

  1. Cyberbullying Prevention

Cyberbullying is a growing source of worry for teachers and students alike, and teaching pupils how to interact responsibly online is critical to its obviation. Modelling polite and proper behaviour for kids and holding them accountable to these norms will help children develop a vigorous foundation for becoming responsible citizens who can navigate both the real and virtual worlds with benevolence and empathy.

  1. Online Safety

One of the most consequential and potent educational and life skills that comes from teaching digital citizenship is internet safety. Students who are taught to appreciate and prioritize online safety are more liable to feel secure in their competency to manage their digital lives and are less liable to fall prey to online dangers. Teach students how to safeguard themselves and their identities by browsing suitable websites, avoiding sharing personal information, and notifying a trusted adult if anything doesn’t feel right.

  1. Digital Responsibility

With unrivalled power to create and define our own digital experiences, comes responsibility. Students must be taught how to use their power properly to achieve long-term educational and personal success.  Teachers should include curriculum that teaches students how to navigate possible hazards such as hacking, piracy, and viruses, as well as plagiarizing and other forms of unethical online behaviour.

  1. Health & Emotional Wellness in the Digital World

Technology has the potential to be addicting, and this addiction can be inimical to children’s health. Extended utilization of technology has been linked to a variety of medical and psychological disorders, including (but not limited to) mental stress, eye problems, ergonomic challenges, and even dietary issues. It’s critical to incorporate innovative tactics to teach students how to use technology securely in ways that preserve and safeguard their developing social-emotional well-being and physical development, as well as the inherent benefits and hazards of significant online participation.

Adding Digital Citizenship to the Curriculum

Teaching digital citizenship comprises,

  • Defining the components that you want to include in your curriculum, and then creating a creative curriculum that emphasizes the concepts you want to teach.
  • Then, by incorporating its principles into existing teaching models and tactics, you can put them into action. This is a condensed version of how to teach digital citizenship.

To effectively incorporate digital citizenship into a child’s education, it is necessary for the entire stake holders in an educational institution collaborates. Along with training, it is critical to model proper online and classroom behaviour and expectations. To be successful, digital citizenship, like all other teaching themes, must be taught with intention on a perpetual and regular basis. Furthermore, digital citizenship education should be a country-wide effort.

The United Arab Emirates Cabinet approved the ‘National Policy for Quality of Digital Life’ in January 2021, with the goal of maintaining a safe digital community and promoting a positive identity via proper digital interactions. The policy is backed by an initiative to align with the UAE’s culture of tolerance and pluralism. The code intends to improve the country’s digital life quality and establish a safe and positive digital community, among other things. Panworld Education wants to join hands in creating active citizens who see possibilities instead of problems, and opportunities in lieu of risks as they curate a positive and effective digital footprint.

Finally, I conclude saying that digital citizenship should not be viewed as a long list of dos and don’ts. It should be about the do’s that contribute to the development of thoughtful, compassionate digital citizens capable of grappling with the fundamental ethical concerns that arise at the junction of technology and humankind.

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