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Introducing Digital Citizenship in Early Childhood

by Erika Brinzac, K-2nd STEAM teacher

We have been having such a blast in K-2 STEAM so far this year! Not only is the newly renovated space beautiful, but its functionality has also given students ample space to create freely with a variety of materials. One of my main goals of the program is to authentically model the intersectionality of the five subjects: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Just as project teams of adults include specialists with varied expertise, students are learning how to work collaboratively in ways that merge the different subjects of STEAM. While some days may include integration of all five parts of STEAM, others focus on fewer subjects as we build foundational knowledge. In fact, one of my favorite daily questions is, “Which letters are we learning about today?” in reference to the STEAM acronym.  

Digital citizenship

Foundational understanding feels particularly important as I prepare to introduce technology in the classroom. This generation of children is growing up fully immersed in a digital world, so it is crucial to give them tools to navigate it responsibly. Therefore, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade are learning about digital citizenship. Just as students and teachers create classroom norms, digital citizenship is about how we show up as a community as we engage with technology and the internet. There are six guiding principles to digital citizenship at this age:

  1. Find balance between time spent online and off.

  2. Think critically about the information you find online.

  3. Trust your instincts; if something feels suspicious, it probably is. Let a grownup know if you encounter a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. 

  4. Limit the amount of personal information you put online, even if it feels small. Ask a grownup for guidance.

  5. Speak up if someone acts meanly, and make sure to tell a grownup. 

  6. Just as we are kind in person, be kind online. Being behind a screen shouldn’t change how we care for each other. 

LS-EC STEAM activity

Second graders created scenes out of Legos that demonstrated digital citizenship.

STEAM activity

As I start to introduce technology in my classes, I am referring back to these principles. When exploring apps like Google Earth or learning to program Blue-Bots and Ozobots, we are discussing the importance of staying within the apps, and I am being transparent with how I am choosing to structure our lessons to maximize students’ safety.

Of course, these guiding principles will shift as the children get older; however, the intention to keep them safe physically and emotionally will always remain. While I am working to build the students’ independence, I also stress the importance of communication with adults, particularly around technology. As long as students feel like they have a supportive network, they will be able to be mindful as they venture online while also knowing someone’s there for them if they make a mistake or have any questions. It is important to start these conversations when children are young and their technological interactions are simpler, for navigating the digital world only grows in complexity as they get older. 

I am excited by students’ interest in digital citizenship and am looking forward to using technology in the STEAM lab to deepen content understanding and expand the ways in which students demonstrate that understanding!