This month my friend and colleague, Pamela Price, has graciously agreed to guest post for my blog as I finish up the first draft of my book, prepare for my wedding (!), and travel abroad. Thank you, Pamela! I urge you to take the time to explain digital citizenship to your children and students. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Like it or loathe it, online interaction is increasingly a part of how we humans interact. This reality is both a blessing and a curse within the gifted community, especially for young adults and kids.
On the one hand, many gifted individuals—especially deep introverts, people with specialized interests, and homeschool families—find it easier to create and nurture social bonds with the aid of chat rooms, web forums, and social media. Teens frequently take great pleasure from relationships established online with people from all over the world.
On the other hand, the anonymity of virtual spaces can empower users to speak unkindly to one another. Gifted/twice-exceptional (“2e”) folks who are hard-wired to be emotionally sensitive, can find everything from minor potshots (aka “ordinary meanness”) to hate-filled cyber bullying as painful as any playground or classroom social slight. And we mustn’t forget that there are gifted/2e youth who are aggressive by nature and find a way to vent that energy via the Internet.
As with real world social interactions, gifted/2e kids and teens deserve guidance on how to navigate online relationships. They need to learn how to become good digital citizens. Fortunately, there are a number of free resources available for teaching “digital citizenship,” including civilized, polite norms of online behavior (“digital etiquette”).
The first of the following three recommendations is geared for kids specifically. The other two suggestions are for adults; however, mature kids and teens motivated to learn more about the topic may find the material accessible.
Webonauts Internet Academy
This PBS online game, which covers a range of issues from privacy to ethical behavior, is a great starting point. Designed for children ages 8 to 10, it’s also appropriate for younger gifted kids who may be trying out popular websites like Scratch in order to learn coding basics. The site includes tips for parents and educators on how to make the most of the content.
Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum
Designed by Common Sense Media, a non-profit “dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology,” these materials can be tweaked for use by homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike.
The curriculum is divided into grade levels, too, which can help you decide gauge where your child should be at in terms of general digital literacy. (It goes without saying that gifted kids, who are prone to asynchronous academic learning, may be “out of step” with their peers. Tweak the plan provided by Commonsense Media as necessary.)
Parents of older children dealing specifically with online aggression will find this resource helpful because it breaks the cyberbullying issue into three parts: the definition, how to prevent it, and when and how to report it. It also has great tips on establishing “house rules” about online use and behavior.
Pamela Price’s second book—on gifted kids and bullying—is due later this summer from GHF Press. As a GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum board member, she is working currently on a pilot project with a PBS affiliate (KLRN San Antonio) and B.A.S.H. called the KLRN Virtual Classroom (#KLRNVirtual). The new initiative, designed to better inform homeschool families about PBS learning resources, is funded generously by the Knight Foundation. You can find Pamela at RedWhiteandGrew.com, Twitter (@RedWhiteandGrew), Pinterest, and Facebook.com/RedWhiteandGrew.