Digital Citizenship: Tackling Cyber Security Threats

Toxic online behavior could be discouraged by being more empathetic and compassionate.

Internet Safety is an important aspect in the present age of artificial intelligence (AI). In order to understand cyber security threats and online safety tools it is crucial to know about digital citizenship as well. Digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses computers, the Internet, and digital devices to engage with society on any level. This term has more evolved in recent years.

Digital Citizenship: Tackling Cyber Security Threats

Mike Ribble described 9 elements to digital citizenship, which he called, “The norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.” According to ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), “digital citizens are learners who use their technology-driven powers conscientiously — and with empathy — to help make the world a better place.” They divide digital citizenship into three spheres: Digital Agent, Digital Interactor, and Digital Self. Common Sense Education describes digital citizenship simply as, “the responsible use of technology to learn, create, and participate”.

Many sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Musical.ly etc have age restrictions. Often the age limit is above 13 or 18. An adult must always guide with the terms and conditions. Moat online content is copyright protected unless mentioned otherwise.

The parents must speak to the kids about their online preferences and screen time. In any case if the children feel uncomfortable or disturbed with their internet experience, they must communicate the same to their guardians or any trusted adult. Kids Helpline (Australia), Childline (UK), Kids Help Phone (Canada) and Your Life Your Voice (USA) are few helplines for kids.

As part of cyber etiquettes kids must be taught not to add strangers as online friends. One should always refrain from sharing personal information, pictures or videos with online friends. YAPPY is a useful acronym to help you remember the personal information you should not share online. Y – Your full name; A – Address (Your home address, email and school address); P – Phone number; P – Passwords; Y – Your plans and birthday; these are confidential information which shouldn’t be disclosed on social media.

There is a lot of fake news or inaccurate information online that should be fact checked before sharing it with others.

Guardians and mentors must teach teens and tweens that any kind of online harassment, threat, verbal abuse, body shaming, racist, sexist or casteist slurs is considered cyberbullying. The children must be sensitized to handle such situations wisely by not deleting the online content until it is dealt with. Schools must get involved and counsel the pre-teen students in such cases. Australia has a government organization to handle such issues, for example, eSafety Office.

Children need to learn that while creating social media accounts they need to be careful with their usernames and passwords. You would not like a username that could get embarrassing while connecting with teachers, future employers or clients. While creating a password kids should keep in mind that it should be neither too difficult to remember nor too easy to guess for others. As digital citizens children need to have separate passwords for their social media accounts in order to avoid hacking or other cyber threats.

As responsible netizens kids need to learn to be polite and respectful. One of the important aspects towards eliminating cyber bullying is also not bullying others. You discourage toxic online behavior by being more empathetic and compassionate.

Last but not the least it is evident to unplug from digital media for some time. Children must meditate, practice Yoga, play indoor offline games such as carom, ludo, snakes and ladders, trump cards, chess, Chinese Checkers, etc. Kids must also engage in fun activities like sketching, painting, writing essays, dumb charades, etc.

Social Media Matters has been conducting cyber safety workshops for kids, parents and mentors. SMM’s “Wranga Digital Parenting” online sessions have been aimed at creating awareness about internet safety and online privacy tools. The main idea behind SMM’s inception as an online safety portal is to ensure an ideal digital citizenship. It is imperative to educate netizens about online safety and healthy internet habits.
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