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SALT LAKE CITY — Ninety-three percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 go online, according to a Pew Research study. Most of them do so every day.
The numbers are similarly high for younger ages. The Internet is part of everyday life and the younger generation is experiencing it in fundamentally different ways than those who are older, often without any guidance. Students in school may take a class on programming or website design and learn the "hows" of using digital tools, but they aren't always educated about the "whys."
Digital citizenship is one effort to help fill in the "whys." House Bill 213, passed in May, is one of the very first state bills to address digital citizenship. The term's definition varies depending on who you are speaking to, but HB213 describes digital citizenship as being "appropriate, responsible, and healthy behavior related to technology use, including digital literacy, ethics, etiquette, and security."
This bill amends and enacts provisions related to educational technology, school community councils, and charter schools.
This bill: requires a school district or charter school that purchases educational technology to ensure that adequate on and off campus Internet filtering is in place; requires a school community council to fulfill certain duties related to safe technology utilization and digital citizenship;
▸ requires a charter school governing board, or a certain council established by a charter school governing board, to fulfill certain duties related to safe technology utilization and digital citizenship; and
▸ makes technical and conforming changes.
The bill's full text is available online
Representative Keven J. Stratton was the one who sponsored HB213. When asked what led him to pursue this, he described an incident from the Alpine School District. At a school in the district, they had 30 tablets intended for an older classroom. However, a student in a younger classroom got a hold of one of the tablets and was exposed to pornographic material.
Stratton said "parents, teachers and administrators collaborated together to get that solved." He admired the "working effort of the community councils working with schools to focus on synergistic strengths of classrooms."
HB213 uses a collaborative approach and closely involves the school community councils to promote appropriate behavior. Paula Plant, a program administrator with the School Land Trust, said that "implementation of HB213 will happen primarily through the school community councils in each school as they partner with district specialists who provide security systems for their schools. Councils also have the responsibility to make sure annual training is provided for students and parents."
This training will be provided through the School Children's Trust at the state office of education. They have calendared 11 trainings this fall to provide councils with background and resources. Principals should be aware of the requirements and administrators at the trust are responding to training requests, as well as helping with a pilot project with some councils.
Stratton emphasized that the focus is on the positives in technology. He said, "too often we get caught in the trap of 'don't do this' instead of 'how' or 'why' we do this. So often we close doors without opening vistas," which is what he hopes HB213 will help to accomplish.
Jan Garbett, founder of the Utah organization EPIK Deliberate Digital, described the issue as being complex. It's easy to just say "no" like in anti-drug campaigns, but it's harder to provide guidance and "yeses."
Teens will not become critical contributors to this [Internet] ecosystem simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive.
–author Danah Boyd
Digital citizenship is still a fairly new concept and Stratton encouraged parents and educators to be involved on this ongoing process. Only about a quarter of schools address digital citizenship in the United States; those numbers represent various elements and concepts, not a standard curriculum.
Danah Boyd, the author of "It's Complicated: The Secret Lives of Networked Teens", argues that "teens will not become critical contributors to this [Internet] ecosystem simply because they were born in an age when these technologies were pervasive."
"Whether in school or in informal settings, youth need opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to engage with temporary technology effectively and meaningfully," Boyd wrote. "Becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age."
If you want to know more about digital citizenship or how you can be involved:
- Contact your school community council. You can find more information about school community councils at the Utah PTA.
- The School Land Trust has a website with resources about digital citizenship as well as notices of upcoming trainings.
- EPIK Deliberate Digital has compiled a listing of resources about digital citizenship at Digital Citizenship Utah.
- Contact Stratton at his email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a digital native and enjoys teaching how to evaluate internet resources at Salt Lake Community College. She can be reached at email@example.com