While students and teachers alike are anxious to integrate new learning tools into the classroom, it is our responsibility to empower our students by giving them the fundamental lessons in digital citizenship.
Like any pursuit, from sport to travel and all of the other elements that make for a live worth living, students must enter the world of social media and digital media with some awareness of what could await them, and how best to deal with the (rare but inevitable) negatives. They must understand the repercussions of irresponsibly using social and digital media and what affects it may have on their future.
Digital Citizenship: more than teaching "safety"
So, it is imperative that we teach students 'digital citizenship' - when? As soon as they begin using digital technologies. These require competencies to master, their digital literacy shouldn't simply consist of how to use a computer for research and for communication, but how to use a computer to be a fully functioning, competent, and, well, 'good' member of society - our society.
While we often talk about teaching students how to be "safe" online, teaching digital citizenship should go beyond simply talking about privacy and security. It also means more than just an etiquette lesson on how to behave "appropriately" online.
Our responsibilities to our community, on & offline
Often the word "citizenship" is invoked in terms of rights - our rights to privacy and to free speech, for example. But citizenship is also about responsibilities - responsibilities to maintain, to protect, and to enhance the community in which we live.
With the advent of Internet technologies, that community can be global. But the communities in which students participate are still very much governed by their physical locations. And as such, it is no surprise that most who report online harassment know their perpetrator. That means too that as we focus on teaching digital citizenship and providing online resources, that we cannot ignore what is happening offline as well.
The key is NOT to stigmatise the online world but to accept that the boundaries between the world of pixels and the real world is still populated by people, and the 'rules' for want of a better word, are the same - avoid creating another list of expectations, use the ones you already have, just apply them consistently online as well off.
For us that is best represented by the UWCSEA Profile, this Prezi is a resource I use in assemblies to emphasise this point. There aren't 'online' and 'offline' behaviours, there are just behaviours - and ours in any context speaks volumes...