Teaching Profession Opinion

Model What It Means to Be a Digital Citizen

By Starr Sackstein — March 30, 2017 3 min read
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Our new president likes to tweet. He says whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Often ignoring appropriate social ettiquette, Trump allows his emotions to dictate how he shares, setting a new precedent for what seems normal.

Sadly, his abusive tweets have become fodder for journalists and a permission slip for youngsters to act agressively when communicating on social media.

With our leader making these choices, it is increasingly important for educators and other adults to model the behaviors we want students to emulate when they are online.

As we practice what we preach, students will see that cyberbullying of any kind can be harmful not just to the target of their attacks, but also to their own reputation.

Here are some helpful reminders for how we could model appropriate digital citizenship for students:

  • Behave online like you would in person. Say only things you would actually say to a person’s face, respectfully sharing ideas. It’s important to understand that words written out of context can often take on different meanings and tone is definitely harder to understand. Even with the use of emoticons, it can be easy for a person to misread intention. So it’s best to just avoid any potentially rude or disrespectful comments.
  • Avoid passive aggressive remarks. Although we think we are being clever or sarcastic sometimes, passive aggressive behavior is not appropriate in a professional setting. If you have an issue with another person, it’s best to solve it privately and not take to a public forum to air your ires. Rest assured, nothing will be solved this way, it will likely only fan a fire or potentially make you look immature and unprofessional. So ask yourself, “who am I really hurting?” “Is this really that important?”
  • Preach positivity and imbue it in your tweets and posts. There is plenty of negative in the world, be a part of the solution and model how to be positive even in the face of adversity. If someone calls you out, don’t get into a tweeting match trying to get the last word in. Take the high road and do your best to not engage publicly. There is a time and a place and Twitter isn’t it.
  • Avoid name calling. I know it probably goes without saying, but name calling is infantile and inappropriate. Refer to people by their handles and try to avoid adding appositives that don’t add something substantial to the comment. After all, you get 140 characters, do you really want to waste any on name calling?
  • Don’t tweet in anger. Sometimes when we are feeling emotional, we say things we most definitely will regret. Once we project those ugly thoughts into the universe whether spoken or on social media, we can’t take them back. This is even more true on social media as it is such a public forum and the footprint never goes away. Take a few minutes, hours, a night, cool down before you respond or start a war while you’re emotions are running high. Again, it’s not just the other person’s business you’re sharing, you’re representing yourself in a not-so positive light.
  • Be respectful. It’s useful to remember that we should treat others as we want to be treated and social media is the perfect forum to practice. People are watching all of the time. Whether it is your followers, colleagues or students, when you choose to be respectful, others will notice and they will notice even more if you engage in disrespectful behavior.

Remember, it’s okay to disagree with what you read online but we still need to respect the opinions and beliefs of those around us. Trolls exist and there will always be people who want to make others feel badly about whatever matters to them, but we must rise above that behavior and demonstrate the expectations we have for our kids.

As we navigate this new age of publicly sharing and connecting, it is more important than ever for us to practice what we preach.

How can you appropriately model effective digital citizenship to ensure the safety of your students? Please share.

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