In the midst of Connected Educators Month, October 19-25, 2014, officially marks Digital Citizenship Week, an opportunity for students, parents and teachers to address concerns about digital responsibility and safety, according to Edutopia. As educators nationwide are actively working to implement an integrated curriculum, it is important to examine the exact nature of digital citizenship, a modern concept that allows students to better collaborate over the Internet.

Digital citizenship isn’t necessarily a new idea, but one that is constantly being refined and honed, especially in the educational community. Marc Prensky examined the dichotomy of digital immigrants and digital natives as far back as 2001, which in many ways set the tone for digital citizenship in classrooms today. Many students are exposed to technology at a young age and often develop adept usage of both devices and applications outside of school. However, these digital tools can also be used for educational purposes providing educators with an opportunity to teach students how to be good digital citizens.

Dangers of Digital Citizenship 

While there are numerous benefits to encouraging active digital citizenship among students and teaching digital literacy, there are also inherent risks. Some students may be prone to sharing inappropriate information that could be jeopardizing socially, academically, or professionally. Moreover, some students may post material via a number of online platforms that is potentially harmful to themselves or others. There’s also a risk of cyberbullying, which is insidious because it may go unnoticed when compared to physical bullying. Considering that reviewing social media profiles is becoming a standard for many universities and employers, it is imperative for students to learn best practices for being a digital citizen.

Digital citizenship is a major contributing factor to a student’s overall online presence. Therefore, it is important for students to understand how to appropriately act online over social media, user forums, blogs, and other web applications to convey professionalism. Proper social etiquette that is expected of students in the classroom has now expanded to include the Internet and a wide range of educational applications. Emphasizing the need for privacy settings and secure passwords is another important aspect of being a smart digital citizen. Overall, Digital Citizenship Week provides an opportunity to address these issues with students directly as part of Connected Educators Month.

This week is also a chance to discuss policies on handling classroom devices, especially if they are used outside of the classroom.