Becoming a digital citizen…starting at age four

Did you know that this week is Digital Citizenship Week? As the manager of CIRA’s Community Investment Program and a mom of two, I spend a decent amount of time thinking about digital citizenship. What does it mean for all Canadians? And what does it mean for my kids?

Did you know that this week is Digital Citizenship Week? As the manager of CIRA’s Community Investment Program and a mom of two, I spend a decent amount of time thinking about digital citizenship. What does it mean for all Canadians? And what does it mean for my kids?

I contemplated these questions once again as I recently completed my four year-old son’s Appropriate Use of Technology Agreement sent to me from the school during his first week of junior kindergarten. The form states that the school board “believes in digital citizenship and the use of technology to enhance learning”. He and I needed to sign off that “it is important to keep my personal information to myself when I use technology” and “that it is important to be nice to others when on the internet.”

Managing our personal information and exhibiting positive behaviour in the online world are big, multi-layered concepts for adults to understand, never mind those who are entering school for the first time. Along with learning their ABCs, these little ones need to consider data privacy and their online presence.

Ok, I’m being a little dramatic here. But the point is that our educators need to wrestle with these issues for kids of all ages. Our children are exposed to technology before they understand the ramifications of having their names and photos online. Issues like privacy are fast-moving and our regulators are trying to keep up with them so Canadians can stay safe online.

At CIRA, we support many organizations teaching Canadian children to become more digitally literate through our Community Investment Program. For example, we provided a grant to MediaSmarts to create a digital literacy program for Canadian educators. Use, Understand & Create is a free program that will reach 2,000 university students obtaining an education degree on how to implement digital literacy into their teaching practice. We have also provided grant funding to KidsCodeJeunesse and Ladies Learning Code, which have both developed coding training materials, curriculum and workshops for non-technical educators so they can teach coding to students. Outside of school, kids learned how to deal productively with cyberbullying through Mozilla’s youth-led Ca.pture project.

As a concerned parent and an individual who is lucky to work in the internet space, I see all the ways others are working to solve these challenges and how much digital technology has benefitted kids in positive ways. My little digital native is already on his way, learning and engaging with others online (as much as his mom and teachers will allow for now).

And a parting thought: what would the world be like if every human was required to sign and follow the appropriate use of technology agreement before using the internet?

Over the last four years, CIRA has supported over 100 community-based internet projects benefitting Canadians through its Community Investment Program. To learn more about the CIP, visit cira.ca/cip.

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