Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/
Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/

It seems like every day you hear a story on the radio about iPads being furnished to high school kids or read a piece about kids and selfies. There seems to be much less discussion about the effort to reach young people about being digital citizens and all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities inherent in that statement.

What does it mean to be truly aware of your “digital exhaust” and understand how you’re viewed by your peers, parents, and community? I think we ought to be teaching kids about human behavior – why people do what they do – and about Internet safety and security, with a modicum of old-fashioned civics and an awareness of “the public square”.

The Kids These Days…

Why do people do what they do? If you’re a 30- or 40-something digital immigrant, you might be wondering why the kids these days take so many self-portraits (selfies). It’s a form of self-expression, or vanity, and sharing. And it’s the same thing we would have done if we had a camera with us all of the time when we were 15 that could broadcast information to anywhere on the planet. How powerful, and how human.

What do other people see?

When you’re a teen you also think you’re invulnerable as well, so you might brazenly ignore any questions about safety and security. We need to be teaching our kids the basics of white-hat hacking, or understanding how to find information, so that they get that anything they post online is essentially public.A great example that might resonate with them is to tell them, “would you want to tell 50 friends at school about this?” The answer might surprise you, and them, and start a larger conversation.

The larger conversation we should all be having about our online (and offline) identities is the meaning and pursuit of digital citizenship. What does it mean today to interact with information on and offline? What is your duty and responsibility to learn and write different points of view? And how do you search for “truth” in a world where there are many truths that claim to be objectively true?

On Interacting with the Larger World, and the People You Know

Let’s start with an idea: the sum of your digital citizenship is the way you are perceived online and in real life. If you don’t realize the portrait you are painting, take the time to find out. And if you don’t like the results, it’s time to decide how you’d like to appear in the digital public square and build habits and actions that get you there. (And ask your friends and parents and peers how you’re doing).

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