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Digital Citizenship: A Guide to Online Safety at Harbor Day

Derick Pikula
The use of digital technology in education is more prevalent than ever. It is imperative that educators give students the necessary tools to navigate safely in the online world. As a technology teacher at Harbor Day, I believe this task is paramount. The Digital Citizenship curriculum instructs students on a variety of topics dealing with responsible technology use, such as digital privacy and security, online safety, cyberbullying and social media use, copyright and creative credit, and information literacy. As students learn and apply safety measures while accessing online materials and resources, they may enjoy learning in a safer environment and can cope with the myriad of obstacles that they might encounter in the digital world. It is important for parents to understand the importance of digital citizenship and the role it plays in shaping the way their children see the online world.

At Harbor Day School, students learn valuable lessons dealing with digital citizenship in stages, as lessons and skills are scaffolded during technology instructional time. As a teacher that instructs students from kindergarten through sixth grade, I introduce developmentally appropriate topics to students, then progressively build upon this knowledge as they grow. In kindergarten and first grade, we discuss online safety. We watch videos and participate in activities that allow students to make connections between real life and online communities. Just as in real life, it is always important to be under parent or guardian supervision when using digital tools. Second and third graders build upon the concept of online safety and are taught about digital privacy and security. Online gaming is now commonplace among these students, and knowing how to access privacy settings on their devices, as well as omitting any personal information while accessing public servers and games, is a must. Building a strong foundation during these formative years allows students to become effective digital citizens and gives them a strong foundation for future technology use.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students build upon their knowledge of appropriate technology use by learning how to recognize and react to cyberbullying, understanding the pitfalls of online plagiarism, and the role of social media in society. These topics are learned through a variety of ways, such as research presentations, comic creations, and scenario-based games and activities. I create my digital citizenship curriculum using two helpful websites: Common Sense Media and Cyberwise. Both of these websites contain helpful information pertaining to implementing digital citizenship lessons, as well as providing up-to-date articles and lesson plans for educators and parents alike. 

Educational technology comes in a variety of forms, as students have access to apps, games, and innumerable sources of information. Teaching students how to use technology in a responsible and safe manner is a responsibility that I place the utmost importance on, and understand that the habits students develop early on will help them navigate safely in an online world that is growing rapidly under their feet.

Helpful Resources:

About the Author:
Mr. Pikula has taught technology for grades kindergarten through sixth at Harbor Day since 2015. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Colorado State University, as well as a Masters of Science in Education from Purdue University, completing the Instructional Design and Technology program. Mr. Pikula has over ten years of experience as a technology instructor in a kindergarten through eighth grade environment. Mr. Pikula has served as a Technology Integrationist, keyboard coach, computer programming teacher, robotics coach using Lego Mindstorms Robotics, and a staff trainer for Smartboard Notebook software and Google Apps for Education.

Harbor Day School

3443 Pacific View Drive
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Harbor Day School is a co-educational private independent K-8 school established in 1952.