Red Deer Public School District

Relationships and communication in a digital age

Relationships and communication are the foundation for success in everyday life. And this month’s Digital Citizenship lesson focuses on exactly that.

“The lesson is about kids understanding that when they go online they have the potential to interact with thousands of people. It’s about the importance of making sure we are being responsible and courteous with our online interactions,” said Stephen Pottage, Educational Technology Coordinator with Red Deer Public Schools.

He added one of the challenges we face is that sometimes it’s difficult for kids to understand context within a digital space rather than with face-to-face interactions it is easier to understand as you can see someone’s reaction and emotion. It is easy to communicate differently with others in an online environment so we need to understand and be aware of that.

“This really ties in with the concepts of cyberbullying and Internet safety. It’s reinforcing those same concepts of being responsible and safe in online environments and understanding that all of our interactions are going to be permanent and could be shared with other people,” said Pottage. “It’s about understanding the role we have in trying to create a positive online environment.”

The lesson for parents is just as important.

“We need to emphasize to parents that kids are growing up in a digital age. I think the big thing is to get parents to talk to their kids about being online,” said Pottage. “If you ask kids questions, they are quite honest and frank.”

He added the challenge that most parents are faced with is they are going about the conversation the wrong way.

“They are not having the conversation until something bad has happened, rather than having ongoing conversations. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive,” said Pottage. “Parents should be asking their kids what apps they are using to communicate with their friends and why they like certain apps over other ones.”

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.

The emphasis this year with the lessons was to gain traction and to get people to understand how important digital citizenship is.

“Pretty much every kid from middle to high school is connected 24 hours a day. This is not something we can talk to kids about once a month and really feel like we are educating them on online interactions,” said Pottage. “This is vital education for kids. We hope that over time, once teachers have done enough of these lessons, that this becomes part of the daily interactions with kids every day.”

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