Vol. 16, Issue No. 1

Educating students to be responsible digital citizens

Over the years, the Philippines has been one of the fastest growing digital nations worldwide. When the mobile phone rose to popularity in the early 2000’s, the country was deemed the “texting capital of the world”. As technological advancements gave rise to social media, Filipinos easily adapted, clocking in the highest online usage for the fourth year in a row in 2019 despite being among the countries with the worst internet connection.

 

But being a full-fledged digital citizen is not only about one’s frequency of internet use. Digital citizenship entails ethical and responsible navigation of the cyberspace. This can be measured by something called the digital intelligence quotient (DQ). A concept that has been recently gaining popularity, DQ is defined by the DQ Institute as “the sum of technical, mental and social competencies essential to digital life.” Responsible digital citizenship would then mean that one must have a high DQ.

Unfortunately, the 2018 DQ Impact Report presented to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last February 2018 has suggested that the DQ of Filipino youth aged 8-12 is lower than the global average. A lower score implies unhealthy digital habits, and higher exposure to online-related threats for young children.

 

Because the youth are among the most exposed to cyber risks, adults may be tempted to simply restrict children’s internet and social media use as a solution. But with institutions like the World Economic Forum deeming DQ as the key to the future and even going as far as claiming it to be more important than IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient), hindering young children from exploring and learning about the digital world will only impede their growth as they face 21st century challenges.

Teachers then play an important role in improving the DQ of young learners so they become better digital citizens. But how can schools and educators get started in the quest to transform the Filipino youth into capable digital citizens? Here are some tips.

2018 DQ Institute Impact Report

1.   Help students understand what a digital footprint is and show them how to protect it.

A digital footprint is the trail of information and data that is left behind when one uses the internet. The data might be active, like emails, comments on social media, or online form submissions that are voluntarily given. They may also be passive or unintentional, such as IP addresses left on web servers and search histories recorded by search engines like Google or Yahoo.

Young children are not always aware of just how far their online presence goes. To help safeguard their cyber security, encourage students to exercise caution when it comes to the information they post on social media, on online surveys, or on forums they frequent. Set aside a session during computer classes where children can do an internet search of themselves so they will be able to review the data that are easily available to anyone, even to future employers. Reiterate the importance of setting the privacy on their social media accounts. Help them understand that the internet is a public domain and thus must be treated as such.

2.   Teach learners how to be critical about the information they get from the internet.

With digital technology making a vast array of data available to everybody, the ability to be discerning about content becomes a necessary skill. Educators can teach learners how to identify misinformation or fake news, and be able to filter online information using these questions:

  • Is the website trustworthy? Be aware that blogs and social networking sites are usually rife with opinions and personal beliefs that masquerade as facts.

  • Is there an author listed in the article? Do they have a good reputation?

  • Is the information up to date? Is there a date on the article at all?

  • Is the article full of grammatical and linguistic errors? These are usually red flags.

 

But while these questions are certainly helpful, more than simply creating checklists, teachers must also advocate for critical thinking. Encourage students to raise questions about lesson topics. Teach them how to spot biases in reading materials. The more students are trained to think critically, the less likely they will fall for false information.
 

The road to responsible digital citizenship for the youth entails the support of those around them.

3.   Make students experience how to use technology in a facilitated blended learning environment.

 

There are many benefits to using e-learning to supplement traditional teaching methodologies. Through blended learning, students get to experience how technology can seamlessly integrate with their everyday lives, similar to how it works in the real world. The facilitated e-learning environment can serve as training wheels for them to learn how to live a healthy digital life.

 

Implementing blended learning can be as simple as including more interactive online content in lessons. There are also various e-learning platforms available to the Philippine market depending on the needs and objectives of both learners and educators.

These are just three of many steps that educators can take to help increase the DQ of young learners. The road to responsible digital citizenship for the youth entails the support of those around them. Schools must give proper guidance to their students as they navigate the complexities of the digital era so they can become adept digital citizens.

A quarterly journal for Filipino educators who strive to become excellent at what they do