The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool that doesn’t really come with an instruction manual, but is absolutely necessary in today’s digital age.
Gone are the days when we can raise our children in a screen-free environment and expect them to be healthy, functioning adults. Instead, parents and educators have to work together to ensure children are properly equipped to utilize the Internet in safe and smart ways.
The world wide web is like a constantly changing world, and we at Waldorf Academy Toronto have some tips on how to teach children to be better digital citizens of that world.
We have a digital civics component in our classrooms, which we use to demonstrate and teach important digital skills for every person learning how to be their best self on the Internet.
Let’s look at some of the core principles of digital civics, and what questions you can discuss with your children as they engage with the online world.
A Changing Digital World
As you have probably experienced, the online world has drastically changed over the past few years.
With advances in technology and the improvement of digital education, the Internet is fluctuating every day.
Staying up-to-date can take time but is immensely important, especially if you’re trying to guide a child through the world wide web.
Our alternative grade 7 Toronto school approaches the Internet as a digital world, where we are all members of a community.
Waldorf Academy Toronto uses the Cyber Civics curriculum created by a Diana Graber, a published author, Waldorf teacher, and researcher who holds a master’s degree in media psychology. To learn more about the curriculum, take a look at their website.
The purpose behind the Cyber Civics curriculum is to help build capacities and awareness for the digital world.
Not The Same World Where You Grew Up
Communication happens at the touch of a finger, often without knowing exactly who you’re talking to.
Social media has expanded rapidly since its creation and continues to grow in popularity. Along with that comes the spread of so-called fake news which comes with the authority and veneer of legitimate news, but reports deliberate falsehoods.
Familiarize yourself with the websites and apps frequented by users both young and old, and you’ll find it much easier to communicate with your family about proper web usage.
Important Digital Questions To Ask Your Children
It’s important for you to talk with your children about the digital world, and to keep communication open.
But how do you prepare your children for the Internet?
Here are some questions you can discuss with your children before they get online.
1. What Are Your Digital Rights?
Just like in the physical world, every person has rights online.
These rights are conditions necessary for you to exist happily and healthily.
You should help your children understand how to assert their digital rights and establish boundaries to protect their wellbeing.
Making your privacy (and the privacy of others!) a priority is key, as well as learning how to manage negativity from others.
Digital rights involves speaking up and communicating about your opinions on the Internet, while also learning to cope with the potentially hurtful content others may share.
2. What Is Your Digital Identity?
When you communicate online, the content you post and share contributes to your digital identity.
How you represent yourself online becomes a part of who you are as a person, and how other people see you.
Encouraging your children to practice empathy and integrity online will help them develop their own digital identity.
3. Are You Digitally Literate?
There is a wide variety of content available online, which means it can be difficult to know what is real, what holds value, and what should be ignored or avoided.
To be digitally literate is to think critically about the things you come across on the Internet, and making smart choices with how you spend your time online.
In the modern world, anybody can publish anything online, regardless of their agenda. This has a positive aspect to it in that human expression is freeing itself from the gatekeepers of the past that prevented alternative viewpoints from being published.
However, it also means that anybody with any ideas – despite how measurably false or harmful they may be – can not only disseminate them, but find their audience.
Talking to your child about digital literacy will set them up for success for when they start to encounter and engage with digital content.
4. What Is Your Digital Emotional Intelligence?
If we show our children the value in being empathetic and compassionate online, we are ensuring a positive future for everyone on the Internet.
You can help your child learn how to build and cultivate healthy relationships in the digital world by introducing them to the concept of digital emotional intelligence.
Digital emotional intelligence is our ability to treat others with respect and dignity online.
Every person you interact with on the Internet is a real person, and that can be easy to lose sight of.
5. How Are You Spending Your Digital Time?
Sometimes, all kids (and adults!) want to do is spend time behind the screen.
You should encourage your children to be mindful of the time they are spending online.
It’s important to establish a balance between technology and being present in the world around us.
A key part of this balance involves teaching your child the value in logging off & enjoying time offline.
6. How Are You Communicating Online?
There are many different ways communicating online impacts your life, which is a fact your child may not realize when they first encounter the Internet.
When you contribute digital content, whether you send a tweet or comment on a blog post, it’s like you’re carving something into a gigantic tree — it’s there to stay, and everyone can see it.
7. Are You Staying Safe Online?
A big concern when it comes to our children communicating online is their safety.
Although the Internet can be an incredibly positive tool, there are some digital citizens who aren’t great online neighbours.
Cyber bullying, harassment, radicalization, and harmful or negative content are important to avoid and disavow.
Having a conversation about these kinds of things with your child can ensure their safety, as well as the safety of others.
Additionally, there are important privacy tools to keep in your digital toolkit.
Some of these include creating strong passwords, protecting your identity, and being mindful of the information you share/do not share.
This is absolutely necessary when raising a responsible digital citizen.
Waldorf Academy’s Approach
At Waldorf Academy, we believe it’s our responsibility to set children up for success and happiness online.
Our classrooms include a digital civics component specially formulated to provide your child with the tools and skills necessary to be an empathetic and conscientious digital citizen.
We are a Toronto Waldorf school with over 31 years of experience educating young minds, and we encourage you to read reviews from parents like yourself.
Contact Waldorf Academy today to meet our faculty and learn more about our alternative approach to academia.