Digital Citizenship, DigitalCitizenToolkit

10 Ways to Strengthen Skills of Young Digital Citizens this Summer

The average summer break for students and educators stretches (often gloriously) for 8 to 12 weeks.  While summer provides an important time to recharge students’ and teachers’ batteries, it doesn’t mean that ongoing learning should stop. In fact, for many, the more leisurely pace of summer lends itself well to meaningful learning.

While summer camps and family visits to museums or historic sites often serve as the sources of summer learning, one essential topic that I believe needs to be focused on more frequently is digital citizenship, especially as smartphone and tablet use can increase dramatically during summer months as the routine of school days give way to unstructured free time.

In this post, I’ll share five ways to keep digital citizenship front-and-center during the summer months and offer five resources, which can help families to better understand the importance of this topic for their young learners.

5 Ways to Discuss Digital Citizenship During Summer Break

As noted above, summer can be a great time for meaningful learning as it often provides the opportunities – and mental space – to delve more deeply into topics that, during a busy school year, are just touched upon.  For me, ongoing and innovative professional learning is very important, which is why I leapt at the opportunity to pursue my ISTE Educator Certification in June.


ISTE, which is the International Society for Technology in Education, creates standards and resources for K-12 educational professionals. Each year, it holds a conference attracting tens of thousands of educators who come to learn new ways to support technology empowered learning. This year’s conference was in Philadelphia and while I attended to present in the Virtual Learning Edcamp Session, I also participated in the educator certification training, much of which focused on ISTE Student Standards, notably Digital Citizenship.

Here are five ways that we discussed how digital citizenship can remain top-of-mind for parents and students during the summer months:

  1. App Talk – What apps do your children have on their phone? How do they use them and why? How do they select apps? Many apps require the user to be age 13 or more. Be engaged in what your students might be downloading on their smart devices and remind them not to sign up for an app that they are not old enough for. Also, be sure to show young people how to view app requirements so that they understand what’s appropriate for them.
  2. Photo Permissions – How often do we take photos of children and post them online? Do we ever ask them for permission? Before you post a photo of friends or of children, model good digital citizenship by asking permission. By doing this, you will help young people to pause and ponder before sharing information and images of others themselves.
  3. News You Can Use – What teaching moments are found in events reported in the news? What are the rights and wrongs with what has happened? Whether a news story about an employee who loses a job due to an off-color social media post or a wedding photographer bemoaning a forever lost moment of a father walking the bride down the aisle due to an intrusion from an amateur photographer – these every day stories can give teachable moments in digital citizenship. Take time to discuss these events. Ask children what they think about what happened. How could it have turned out differently had other choices been made? What can they learn from this story? These questions can lead to important conversations that need to be had.
  4. Screen Time Moderation – Though there are many opinions, pro and con, in regards to screen time and the type of content engaged, it is safe to say that children benefit from learning how to limit and moderate the amount of time they spent in front of a screen. There is wisdom for adults in finding balance in screen time too! Actively setting limits and enforcing them will help students do this for themselves in the future.
  5. Kindness and Respect – Respect for others is a life skill, not just a digital citizenship skill. Cyberbullying is a real and persistent problem for young people of all ages. Model kindness online and in-person. Ask students if what they are posting is kind, necessary, respectful of themselves and of others. And if it isn’t, have the tough conversation about why.

In addition to these tips, there are a wide variety of sites, which can help support these efforts, which have age correlated resources for digital citizenship and online safety. Many of the lessons you’ll discover are can be completed at home in quick sessions before basketball camp or on the way to the swimming pool. These include lessons on key topics such as: Posting Responsibly, Cyberbullying, Respecting Rights of Others and more. Be sure to check these out:

  1. Google’s Be Internet Awesome
  2. Common Sense Media
  3. NetsmartzEducators
  4. SOS – FBI.Gov
  5. Kidsmartz

With a little less than half of summer left, take advantage of the natural slowdown to further strengthen the skills of digital citizens through these recommendations.  It’s important that the work of helping young people to learn how to stay safe and grow as digital citizens never takes a true hiatus.

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