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What are your biggest concerns about online safety and digital citizenship?


One of the critical roadblocks for teachers interested in student media making and online discourse is concern about safety and behavior online. The concern is evident everywhere. A search for “online safety” on YouTube returns over a million videos with most focused on showing teens, tweens and parents how to navigate the dangers effectively. Yet, despite the overabundance of resources, issues surrounding online safety and how to teach digital citizenship are a major concern. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance 2011 K-12 study of cybersafety, while 81% of teachers report their students use a school computer lab one or more times per week, only 34% of teachers report having taught about risks associated with social networking. The study also reports that a large majority of teachers (79%) believe it is a parent’s responsibility to teach online safety to their children, even though many parents may not possess the knowledge and experience to effectively fill this role.

Today, of course, kids are online more than ever before with 81% of all 12-17 year olds using social media and 50% of those using social media more than once per day – and teens who text do so on an average of 118 times per day. While many of these teens are savvy and use their digital devices safely and responsibly, statistics from the Pew Internet Research Center show 95% of teens witnessing online bullying, and 33% of teens being victims of such behavior. Statistics on predatory behavior, pornography, and privacy paint a similar picture of a social media landscape youth need assistance understanding fully.

danah boyd, in her new book, It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teensoffers a counterpoint:

Nostalgia gets in the way of understanding the relation between teens and technology. Adults may idealize their childhoods and forget the trials and tribulations they faced. Many adults I meet assume that their own childhoods were better and richer, simpler and safer, than the digitally mediated ones contemporary youth experience. They associate the rise of digital technology with decline—social, intellectual, and moral. The research I present here suggests that the opposite is often true.

Many of the much-hyped concerns discussed because of technology are not new (for example, bullying) but rather may be misleading (for example, a decline in attention) or serve as distractions for real risks (for example, predators). Most myths are connected to real incidents or rooted in data that are blown out of proportion or are deliberately exaggerated to spark fear. Media culture exaggerates this dynamic, magnifying anxieties and reinforcing fears. For adults to hear the voices of youth, they must let go of their nostalgia and suspend their fears. This is not easy.

Teens continue to occupy an awkward position between childhood and adulthood, dependence and independence. They are struggling to carve out an identity that is not defined solely by family ties. They want to be recognized as someone other than son, daughter, sister, or brother. These struggles play themselves out in familiar ways, as teens fight for freedoms while not always being willing or able to accept responsibilities. Teens simultaneously love and despise, need and reject their parents and other adults in their lives. Meanwhile, many adults are simultaneously afraid of teens and afraid for them. (pp. 16 – 17)

Our driving questions:

  • What is a teacher’s role in helping students understand potential dangers online?
  • How much of a presence should teachers and parents have in student online spaces? What should their role be in these spaces?
  • What are successful ways you’ve addressed these issues in your learning environment?
  • Have negative issues associated with online safety or digital citizenship come up in your learning environment? How did you address them?


danah boyd Video It’s Complicated: Teen Privacy in a Networked Age
danah boyd, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and author of It’s Complicated discusses teen culture and issues of privacy in this keynote address at FOSI 2013. 

You can respond to this Do Now using Twitter, G+, Instagram, or Vine. Be sure to include #TeachDoNow in your response.

Follow us on Twitter at @KQEDedspace and join our Google+ Community. For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage participants to reply to other people’s tweets and posts to foster more of a conversation. We also value community generated media that can be linked to tweets or posts. You can visit our video tutorials that showcase how to use several web-based production tools. 

Click here to go back to the #TeachDoNow course

More Resources

Web Resource The Teacher’s Guide to Keeping Students Safe Online
Edudemic presents a good set of guidelines for addressing setting boudaries, sexting, and inappropriate material with links to other good resources.

Web Resource Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship
digitalcitizenship.net provides a comprehensive set of norms to aspire to regarding citizenship online.

Digital Citizenship Infographic/Poster
A great infographic to use with students learning about digital citizenship.

#TeachDoNow webinar Episode 5: Digital Citizenship and Online Safety
Special guests Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell), Kelly Mendoza (@KellyMendoza), Julie Mora-Blanco (@Jultch) and Rebecca Girard (@TechBioBek), discuss concerns teachers have surrounding safety, digital citizenship and the behavior of students online. 


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