Rules of the Digital Playground

By Carrie Paine
Over the years, I’ve spoken to my graduate students and continuing adult educators about digital citizenship and the evils that may lurk on the internet playground. As an educator for Wisconsin Connections Academy, a K-12 public online school, I promote these concepts to educators and parents alike. It’s vital to not only understand the dangers that may exist in the depths of the internet, social media and collaborative gaming realms — but to also know how to teach good stewardship of these spaces. I am speaking about students and their online habits. Today’s students are not only citizens of their countries, towns and cities, they are also international citizens through the internet. Just as students learn the rules of the physical playground, they must now learn the rules of the modern, digital playground. 

Between all of the available apps, social networks, games and other outlets where information can be shared and social interactions take place, it’s not easy for adults to monitor everywhere students visit on the vast web. Digital citizenship knows no age or boundaries, making this practice valuable to everyone who is active on cyberspace. 

The practice of teaching responsible internet usage at home and school has gained momentum in recent years, as children today live and breathe in the digital space. Just as we were drilled as children to stop, drop, and roll if we were on fire—educators must drill the safety rules of digital citizenship, and instill these responsible habits in today’s students. Here are some tips to get started:

Screen Time Recommendations

18 months and younger: No screen time.

2-5 years old: One hour of screen time is recommended per day, depending on the activity. This time may also be broken up into smaller, timed segments.

6-18 years old: No limit is currently set by the medical field, but as a mother of two boys, I limit the use to school work and one hour of game playing time. I also have a separate charging area in a general area of the house, and my kids are not allowed to take their phones into their rooms.

Social Network Rules 

1. Do not join social networks unless you meet the age requirements.

2. Do not “friend” people you do not know in person or consider to be a friend in real life.

3. Do not share personal information. Five things you should never share online are confidential information about your identity, financial information, your schedule, work information, and passwords or clues. But feel free to share information such as your favorite food. 

4. Pause before sharing photos of oneself — even Snapchat photos can be saved by others. If you would not share a photo with classmates or family, do not share on social media.

5. Remember negative brings negative. If you wouldn’t say something in person, don’t say it on social media.  

Gaming Rules

1. Students should not play a game that has a recommended age higher than their own.

2. Students should not play virtual games with people they do not know in person. Only game with friends they speak to regularly and spend time with in person.

3. Do not download any added tools without parent permission.

The digital playground gets larger each day, and it is important for parents, teachers and students to know some best practices to navigate their time online. 

Carrie Paine is a K-12 Technology Teacher for Wisconsin Connections Academy, an affiliate of the Appleton Area School District

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