Red Deer Public School District

A golden rule of digital citizenship - think before you post

Oops! Have you ever posted something on your social media, or someone else’s social media and wished you could take it back after the fact? You are not alone. This is something that happens every single day.

Think before you post - that is the message in this month’s Digital Citizenship lesson.

The theme for February is Digital Footprint and Reputation where students will learn how the digital world is permanent and with every post and interaction online, they are creating a digital footprint.

“One of the things that we try to instill in kids is to understand that everything on the Internet is permanent,” said Stephen Pottage, Educational Technology Coordinator with Red Deer Public Schools. “People have used the phrase ‘digital footprint’ for a long time but we are trying to change the messaging around that to more of a ‘digital tattoo’. The second that you post anything online, you have basically lost control of it.”

He added the message is about self-awareness and being digitally responsible.

“You need to think before you post - self reflect before you self reveal. I think we really need kids to understand they are growing up in an age now where college admissions and employers primarily go online to fact find who you are,” said Pottage. “There are countless examples over the last year of people being fired from their jobs because they are posting inappropriate content online that doesn’t reflect the views of their employers.”

Pottage suggested to practice an exercise where you Google yourself. “Do that from a guest browser so that you can see what a stranger on the Internet would be able to see. That includes going to your Google images and seeing what is showing up. Start to take control of what your reputation looks like online.”

One false sense of security some may have when it comes to digital citizenship is thinking their social media accounts are secure.

“It doesn’t matter what your privacy settings are at - once it goes out into the digital world, anyone can take a screenshot of it or use it in some other way that was intended,” said Pottage, adding privacy means something completely different in the digital world. “We still do want kids to have a good practice of locking down their social media and by default turning it to private, so that the only people who have access to that particular content are people they have given permission to.”

In terms of parents, Pottage said the same message applies.

“I would suggest the majority of online users don’t take their privacy seriously enough. I would also suggest most adults have not locked down their privacy settings which opens up a whole different can of worms,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Digital Citizenship curriculum, which is in support of the District’s digital literacy initiative, started in October. They include ready to go lessons for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. The lessons can be found on the Red Deer Public Schools website.

“We don’t want digital citizenship to be about the Internet being full of dangers. Certainly those things exist, but instead we want to focus on what the positives, benefits, opportunities and advantages are,” said Pottage.

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