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We need digital citizenship to better achieve curricular goals and develop our students holistically in a connected world. I decided to create a personal prototype digital citizenship presentation to begin educating my students before beginning research projects in order to guide them to critique and utilize information found on-line and in social media. Since their knowledge-pursuit is connected to the curriculum, responsible use of social media to gather information is implied. Teaching digital citizenship extends beyond the curriculum however, as the interactions within have potentially negative consequences. Utilizing social media and teaching digital citizenship can help foster holistic development (mental, social, and emotional well-being) and may combat social factors potentially inhibiting a student’s ability to achieve curricular outcomes (ex. cyber-bullying).

Combat the negatives of social media
If we don’t weave this into our classrooms or it doesn’t happen at home, problems with social media will occur. There are many outlets for problems to occur, Yik Yak is only an isolated incident. Yik Yak seems very similar to ASKfm, which has caused problems associated with cyber-bullying in our community. Since Yik Yak is location-based… it can be blocked by geo-fencing, but this is just a band-aid. As always, rather than providing a band-aid to a problem, we want a long-term solution… and normally this comes with education (climate change or sexual health issues are hopefully made better through education). How can this be done? We need progress and solutions beyond isolated incidents and this can be remedied through continuing the conversation in the classroom about digital citizenship… and teaching students not to hide behind anonymity.

Applications to sexual health
Porn has well-documented negatives associated with viewing it, affecting intimacy (in the sexual sense) between partners negatively. Porn’s not going to disappear in the near future, so address it head-on with awareness, like Ontario is doing. Much like sex education shifts in recent history we saw that greater education of sexuality can lead to lower rates of STI-transmission and teen pregnancy. This follows the idea that it gives teens the knowledge to make a choice… and combining choice with positive relationships leads to a stronger learning environment. If you play with everything face up… and live a life that you’re not afraid of others finding out… is that not the best way to achieve positive self-esteem? You come to terms with your flaws, address them and can plan to improve them… even utilizing the help of others to do so.

“We need progress and solutions beyond isolated incidents and this can be remedied through continuing the conversation in the classroom about digital citizenship… and teaching students not to hide behind anonymity.”

4chan thrives on anonymity, and delivered by and reaching an invisible audience. It provides a blend between humour, fanaticism, anarchism and vigilantism. You have a sordid mix of meme-creating humour, well-meaning “cyber-attacks”, and severely harmful instances of cyber-bullying. Some cyber-bullying extends to “bad” corporations/individuals, so one may argue it is a force for good, much like Batman… and like Batman, it all circles around its anonymity. It allows for the power to do good… and bad, all without the fear of getting caught. Many parallels can be drawn between it’s associated organization: Anonymous and fsociety from Mr. Robot.

4chan and Anonymous is nameless and faceless, but it is still a network that provides a Jekyll and Hyde home for individuals. Students need a home, a social support network, and validation of their ideas therein.

Anonymous Emblem via Wikipedia

Validation drives the desire to connect to groups, to share your story, even if it is within a group interwoven with negativity. Even without a face, you can feel validated in your statements or “heard”. Unfortunately, your ideas can also be “trolled”, damaging self-esteem or, as some students are reportedly doing, practising “self-trolling”, cutting themselves down on-line, altering their personal expectations. Silver-lining, this potentially allows them to observe support from peers, who will be their hero? Will one come or, could they even be their own hero, creating an anonymous threat and solving it themselves? While not a good practice to create a fake bully to see who will stick up for us, or defend ourselves, what is a positive we can take from this? Can we utilize heroism ideas like this within digital citizenship to help students practice problem-solving constant attacks and shifts to their identity and expectations? “No one judges them more harshly than themselves” but perhaps “No one can provide the answer to it but themselves”. As a teacher, what subtle supports can we guide them to higher self-esteem achieved through this? Can we devise a way through educating students on digital citizenship to take advantage or simulate these opportunities to grow and meet the expectations they feel are placed on them? Students may create these expectations, so how can we guide them out of it without imposing it or having to police it? How can we make them their own heroes? If we can devise a way, they become the bedrock and clientele of these potentially hazardous social media sites and educating students about social media through digital citizenship may be the way.

Comments? Feedback? Let me know!

-Logan Petlak