How do you define yourself? Digital identity can be described as the digital representation of a physical entity. This could be a person, an organization or even a school district for example. In today’s world of new and emerging technologies, managing one’s identity online has become a crucial and necessary skill to have. Some have argued that digital duality does not exist in the strict sense and that there is no true demarcation line between a digital self and a real-world self. Others agree that digital identities are simply a reflection of what we choose to show in the mirror. In other words, we can choose to reflect our true nature or, for some, the choice exists to portray a totally new persona online. It has often been described as a footprint, a tattoo or a reflection but no matter the metaphor, it has become apparent that having an online presence is the way the world has moved. As Dr. Alec Couros describes below, having control over our identity online is not always easy when we consider the apps, websites, and companies that house much of our data. In essence, how do we allow students to experiment with their digital identities in a responsible way that fosters connection and collaboration?
As I have built my digital identity, I have moved away from the constant uploading of personal data and have started to manage who has access to my personal photos and information. Certain platforms are used strictly for professional posts such as this blog, Twitter, and Youtube for example. I have tried to curate a profile and identity that would reflect positively at all times on myself, my family, and my profession. This is what is at the crux of the argument for more inclusion of digital citizenship lessons in schools. The importance for the future of our students and our society con not be understated.
In examining digital identity, it is imperative that we understand that it is not simply about safeguarding kids against possible dangers online. It has to be about more than that. It’s important that students also realize that managing your digital identity is based in positive interactions online. As Kristin Hicks states in her post,
“Teaching digital citizenship means embracing the reality that we’re all interconnected through the Internet, and that we therefore need to understand the responsibilities and risks that come with life online”
Many teachers in Saskatchewan are incorporating a classroom Twitter account into their everyday routines with students in order to reiterate the importance of and the knowledge to foster positive interactions online. As Dani mentioned in her post, education is truly the key to ensuring students have the tools necessary to not only stay safe and protected online but to THRIVE online! This means creating positive meaningful relationships with others. Below is a great example of a 7/8 classroom here in Regina which uses Twitter to share learning and connect with other learners across the globe.
In reflecting on my own family, I hope to engage in meaningful and valuable conversations around digital identity with my own kids as they grow up. I hope to continue using scrutiny when posting any pictures or video of my kids, knowing that this data is no longer my property or theirs. I hope they grow up with teachers that teach and model appropriate use of technology to create positive connections with others. As is stated in this article from the Atlantic, youth should have a moral responsibility to control their own digital footprint and sharenting has done much to circumvent this. I hope my digital identity makes my kids proud and not embarrassed. Finally, I hope that my kids rise to the challenge of creating and curating positive identities for themselves online. The internet has the ability to bring out the best in people and also the worst in people and I hope for my kids it brings out the best. Here are some tips for parents to help promote a positive digital identity with their kids via edmentum .
- Only share personal information when necessary.
- Take advantage of Internet privacy settings.
- Remind your child to always think before typing.
- Manage online accounts and passwords closely
In the above video, kids share with their parents what they are really doing online. As is stated in the video, this is the world our kids are growing up in. Let’s be involved and learn together what it means to be a positive contributor to this online world. Ultimately kids are always watching what we do so it is truly on our shoulders to model what this looks like for future generations.
Question to consider: In what ways do you already model positive digital behaviour for students or children? Is it effective?