Why We Need to Teach Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship in ActionIn today’s technology-driven world, our society is moving at a lightning fast pace. Information is communicated at the click of a button, kids and teenagers are participating in global conversations from their cell phones, and traditional sources of news, information and knowledge are being passed over because they are simply too slow, too cumbersome, and too static.

Social media has been elevated from an interesting hobby for techies, to a standard means of conducting business and a legitimate source of news and knowledge. Because it has long been the domain of techies and teens, social media is seen by many as unnecessary or intrusive. But the prevalence and pervasiveness of social media have made it impossible to ignore as it becomes a big part of our everyday lives.

As participants in this new technological age, and most especially as educators, we have a responsibility to become knowledgeable participants who can safely navigate the social media landscape. Of course, one of the big questions is why do we want to use social networks? Well, to put it simply, it’s where your students are. If you are still leery of the impact of social media, here are some interesting facts about social media usage.

The North American total population is around 347 Million, and of those, 273 Million (79%) were internet users as of December 2011 (Internet World Stats.com).

There are 173 Million North American users (50% of all North American internet users) on Facebook (Internet World Stats.com).

Social networks/blogs account for 1 in every 4.5 minutes of online time (NeilsenWire June 2010).

So what is the significance of these stats? They clearly illustrate a wide spread acceptance of social media and the importance of us becoming responsible digital citizens.  Social media is revolutionizing the way we communicate and interact with each other. “Digital Citizenship” is increasingly more important for our technologically savvy students as well as ourselves, our students may have the knowledge necessary to access and utilize the myriad of online social media sites, but in many cases they lack the understanding of how to participate in these online communities in a safe and appropriate manner. “Digital citizenship” is a skill that we need to learn in order to educate our students.

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