Responsible Citizens in the Digital Age

One of the four key aims of the Scottish Curriculum is to develop ‘responsible citizens’, ‘with respect for others’ and ‘ a commitment to participate responsibly in political, economic, social and cultural life’. One’s immediate thoughts are perhaps drawn to the life of the community, or the country, and the challenges of encouraging young people to engage in the democratic process at a time when trust in politicians is at an all-time low, but in an increasingly connected world, we have to think of responsible citizenship in global terms, especially in relation to the internet and social networks.

I learned the other day that YouTube is now the number one source of music for most young people. What happened to Top of the Pops while I looked away? Is it still on at seven o’clock on a Thursday? In reality, what is happening here is that the media which were once produced by the few and consumed by the many (and all at the same time), are now being produced by the many and shared by the many, at a time of their own choosing. To paraphrase transmedia guru Henry Jenkins, sharing is the new form of distribution. The implications of all of this are still emerging, but range from the ethical issues surrounding ownership, through digital literacy to e-safety and carbon footprints. How do parents and teachers begin to understand the issues, never mind teach the social responsibility which is such an essential part of the curriculum? Well appropriately enough, the answer may lie in the internet itself, and particularly in Google, which has developed an interactive curriculum on YouTube to support teachers in educating students on how to be safe, engaged and confident model ‘netizens’.

The initiative is aimed at students aged 13 to 17 and will help them to develop digital literacy skills on YouTube that would be applicable across the web. A list of 10 lessons has been devised, in which students can learn about YouTube’s policies, how to report content, how to protect their own privacy, and how to be responsible YouTube community members and, in the broader picture, digital citizens. The curriculum helps educate students on topics like:

  • YouTube’s policies
  • How to report content on YouTube
  • How to protect their privacy online
  • How to be responsible YouTube community members
  • How to be responsible digital citizens

Each lesson comes with guidelines for teachers and ready-made slides for presentation. There’s also a YouTube Curriculum channel where videos related to the project will be posted. Get started today by downloading your free Teachers’ Guide here.

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3 thoughts on “Responsible Citizens in the Digital Age

  1. Digital citizenship is as difficult to teach as character development. My colleague, @briancsmith, quoted a friend of his who believes classrooms should have only one rule.

    “Don’t be a jerk.” Discuss :).

    Wish I could use that with my 10-year-olds. Perhaps, in terms of internet, we must add “Don’t be naive.” :)

    • If only it was that simple, eh! You could spend a whole session discussing the meaning of ‘naive’ alone. I don’t think there are any short-cuts, but these are exactly the kind of discussions we need to be having today, and learning TOGETHER what social responsibility is. We are now in territory where young and old are equally naive.

      • So true. And parents have a lot of fears about their children being online. I find the fears stem more from the “fear of the unknown” than a fear of their child’s lack of responsibility.

        Some colleagues and I were thinking of offering a computer and online course for parents so that they get a better idea as to what their children are doing – and how we are advising them to live a digitally “wise” life.

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