How to Protect the Digital Natives

Teaching Strategies

Guidelines for ICT Coordinators

By Michael Hilkemeijer

An integral part of being the ICT coordinator is ensuring the online safety of children at your school. With the widespread use of the Internet providing many benefits comes the many risks involved so it is significant that you do safeguard them so that they can be themselves and “develop their own online presence, personality, values and beliefs as much as they would in real life” (Audain, 2014, p. 193). 

It the school’s duty to ensure that students are able to find a healthy balance in their use of ICT, to stay safe online, to recognise the value of the World Wide Web so that they can make a positive contribution in both their social and work life by using their ICT capability as the key to a prosperous and thriving life. All this can be achieved using the ICTs already present in schools. With increased education, vigilance and knowledge students can learn to be responsible digital citizens.


Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship, according to the Australian Government (2017) is “about confident and positive engagement with digital technology”. It recognises a digital citizen to be a “person with the skills and knowledge to effectively use digital technologies to participate in society, communicate with others and create and consume digital content.” The core principles that a digital citizen should practise include: 

  • Engage positively;
  • Know your online world;
  • Choose consciously. 

There are nine elements of digital citizenship that every student should know of. According to Ribble (2011), students should be aware of aspects of the digital world such as access, commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette, law, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security (self-protection). In other words, they are to do with the “children’s reputation, their online identity and how they develop into a person of good standing in all their interactions” (Audain, 2014, p. 197). 

He created a reflection model from which teachers can help students with the issues of digital citizenship by using ICT not use in school but at home and with their friends. The four stage reflection includes: 

  • Awareness;
  • Guided practice;
  • Modelling and demonstration;
  • Feedback and analysis. 

This model can be used to develop students’ understanding of appropriate ICT use in a learning environment. 

The following provides questions from which teachers can help students reflect on how they use ICT (Ribble, 2011). 

Stage 1. Awareness
  • Do I have a good understanding of how a particular technology works and how using this technology can affect me as well as others?
  • Have I learned about the potential problems or issues related to using this technology?
  • What rules (legal and ethical) govern the acceptable use of this technology? 
Stage 2. Guided Practice
  • When I use technologies, do I recognise when there is an issue of inappropriateness? Why or why not?
  • Have I considered the appropriateness of my actions? Why or why not?
  • Can I differentiate examples of technology misuse and abuse? Why or why not?
  • What do I need to do to become aware of my actions when using technology?
Stage 3. Modelling and Demonstration
  • Am I violating laws, policies, or other codes by using technology in this way? Why or why not?
  • Have I seen, read, or heard of similar situations? What were the consequences?
  • Does digital citizenship provide direction for determining the appropriateness of my actions? How? Why?


Stage 4. Feedback and Analysis
  • Am I satisfied with my decision? Why or why not?
  • Am I satisfied with the outcome of the situation? Why or why not?
  • Did my behaviour have a positive or negative influence on others? Why?
  • Did I go back and evaluate how I used the technology later?
  • Did I think about possible alternatives of how to use the technology? 


E-Safety for all

The terms e-safety and digital citizenship are synonymous with each other. E-safety in schools today is a priority as they become more and more connected to the outside world. It covers a number of issues but it is mainly to do with staying safe whilst online along with keeping personal information secure. 

According to Audain (2014), students can face dangers when they are exposed to:  

  • Social networking;
  • Blogging;
  • Use of the mobile phone;
  • Picture sharing websites;
  • Instant messaging and;
  • Online chatrooms. 

The risk involved include:  

  • Inappropriate content – which may be sexual, violent, racist, bigoted or simply unreliable;
  • Contact with undesirable people – via instant messaging, chat rooms, social networks and online games – can lead to predation and grooming;
  • Exposure to commerce – advertising, spam email, scams, phishing, pharming and blue jacking;
  • Culture – cyberbullying, camera phones, blogging and mobile blogging (moblogging);
  • Malicious software (malware) – viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and adware. 

(Hall, 2010, p. 180)

In particularly, with the widespread use of the Internet students can be at risk and these are determined by the behaviour of users rather than the technologies themselves (Metcalfe & Simpson, 2011, p. 103).

Whole school approaches

A whole school approach to e-safety is essential if students are to feel safe online while at school. Today, while many schools have an Acceptable Use Policy, it is imperative that as the ICT coordinator that you do not become complacent and assume that just because the school has one, that it is working.  In saying, I agree with Ribble (2011) that an AUP is not enough and that teachers need to provide “active direction to students” (pp. 12). 

According to Metcalfe and Simpson (2011, p. 106), AUPs should: 

  • Provide a framework to establish and reinforce safe and responsible online behaviours for children, staff and parents;
  • Reinforce the safe and responsible use of all technologies (rather than listing specific ones) and promote the benefits of using such technologies;
  • Be relevant to the setting and the characteristics of the users;
  • Involve users as far as possible in the development and review of e-safety policies and procedures;
  • Set out clearly what users are and are not allowed to do when using these technologies, and the consequences of breaching such regulations;
  • Be written in a tone and style appropriate for its users (which may mean having different versions for different users);
  • Be linked to other school policies such as child protection, anti-bullying and behaviours policies, as appropriate;
  • Be regularly monitored, reviewed and updated and ensure that any changes are communicated to stakeholders. 

However, as issues change, so must AUPs and it is possible to create better ones. 


Home-school Partnerships

Home-school partnerships can play an important part in ensuring the e-safety of students. For this to occur, it has to involve raising the awareness of issues in e-safety to the community in addition to developing parents’ and teachers’ knowledge and understanding of new technologies (Metcalfe & Simpson, 2011). It is imperative that it is a continuous, cross-curricular program and should be the responsibility of all staff. 

It is vital that parents are included in the conversation. One way to include parents is to have a representative on the online safety team and to share online safety information. For example, regular newsletter articles about the positive ways students are using technology for as well as about online risks is a great way to keep the topic relevant and interesting for families (Australian Government, 2017).

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