Five of the scariest things from the Digital World and how to teach Digital Citizenship around them.

What might have sounded like a Science Fiction novel a few years back todays is a reality, we are living in a Digital world where most of us are not native. Children today navigate a world that we are just starting to get to know, and it is our duty to teach them how to be ethical when confronted with the endless power of Internet, and how to protect themselves from others that lack ethics. Teaching Digital Citizenship is teaching children to be responsible and active members of the biggest community in human History.

In the spirit of Halloween, here is a list of 5 of the scariest things that happen in the digital world and how to teach Digital Citizenship to face them:

1. Words that Kill.

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Bulling and Harassment have moved online and in they are unleashing a power that’s taking a toll on children and adults alike.

Lets start with some scary statistics:

  • Over half (52%) of young people report being bullied or harassed online.
  • 11% of adolescent and teens reported that embarrassing or damaging photos taken without their consent or knowledge were used to harass or bully them.
  • Cyberbullying found to have catastrophic effects upon the self-esteem and social lives of up to 70% of young people
  • In the UK 47% of all respondents said they experienced some form of abuse on one or more of social networking apps with 62% receiving nasty private messages and 40% receiving nasty hateful comments about their photos.  42% experienced hateful comments (trans-phobic, homophobic, racist or xenophobic remarks) while 28% said their private information (name, family name, home address, personal email address, photos or phone number) shared without their consent or desire. (Ditch the Lable, 2014)

How do we help students face it: When encountering bulling or online harassment follow the next steps.

  • Don’t engage: reacting is giving power to the perpetrator and revenge is turning into one. If you want to engage, just ask the person o stop.
  • Save it: Collect evidence by a screenshot in case things escalate or you need to ask for help.
  • Use the tools at hand: the majority social media and communication tools allow you to block and report a person for harassment.
  • Ask for help: you deserve backup, share it with a friend, a parent or an adult you trust. In case you receive violent or life threats report it to the police and school.
  • As a bystander you can Help: everything stated above can also be done by a by stander.

2. The Viral Epidemic that Never Goes Away.

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Today many people dream of becoming viral, through vines, snaps, YouTubes or photos shared, and create content specifically for that purpose, but what if a fun idea became your biggest mistake when it goes viral? Once content goes online there is no control where it might stop and who will see it, and the scariest part is that it will never go away.

Mostly you create your online reputation, but things posted by others can add to it. Digital reputation will follow you into the offline world, affecting your life in a variety of contexts such as dating, school admission and job opportunities, so a simple mistake or slip in character can follow you everywhere.

How do we help students face it: The best way to protect our online reputation is to be conscious of what we create and think carefully before we post something on the web. We can help student by helping them actively manage their online reputation by doing the following:

  • Revise privacy setting regularly: most social media allow you to manage your privacy settings, from public and private like twitter, to a more “A la carte” experience like Facebook.
  • Clean up your accounts: if there is a past post that today seems unsuitable: delete it.
  • Ask others to remove content: If a picture was tagged that shows you feel is inappropriate ask the person to delete it or remove the tag.
  • If content of you was uploaded without your consent you can always follow the bulling and harassment steps.

3. Shape shifters.

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Anonymity and cover identities are easy to attain online, and there are many that use it to take advantage and scam others, it is easy for criminals or devious persons to take advantage of you, your good name and your bank account when they are disguised or behind a veil of anonymity, tricking you to surrender your own personal information.

What is phishing? Phishing is when scam artists send fake text, email, or pop-up messages to get people to share their personal and financial information. Criminals use the information to commit identity theft.

What about Cat-fishing? Cat-fishing is a type of deceptive activity involving a person creating a sock puppet social networking network for perverse purposes.

How do we help students face it: With both phishing and Cat-fishing the risk is identity theft, but when it comes to Cat-fishing more often than not the emotional well being is also at risk, teaching how to avoid attacks is the best way to face them.

  • Guard against Spam or unknown senders: most phishing scams and cat-fishers use the following techniques, being aware of them can help put a stop before it starts: personal data, no personalized message, use haste, fear or other emotions to prompt you into action.
  • Ask for proof: if you suspect any foul play but aren’t sure, ask for proof, when it comes to phishing contact whomever is asking you to give your information. When it comes to cat-fishing ask for more proof such as a video call. In both cat-fishing and phishing situations you can also do a Google search and see if others have encounter this scam.
  • Know when to communicate personal information: never share information online or through IM, and distinguish when a site is secure such as a lock icon or and S rater than http:
  • Never send money: Never ever ever ever send money or share your banking information to anyone you are not 100% sure is legit.

4. Big Brother is ALWAYS watching.


Even the most complicated password or strongest firewall will not protect you from Big Brother. Being any sites that embeds a cookie into your device, or a government tracking your every move the only way to hide is to be aware about it.

How do we help students face it: It is important that we teach students to be aware of their digital footprint and the data they create by being online, and to let them know they have options.

  • Online doesn’t mean anonymous: many studies have found that students feel anonymous online, let them now that even if they don’t share their names there are ways to track them.
  • Know what every site is doing with your data: reading the terms and conditions and the privacy policies is important to keep your privacy. Knowing what your information is being used for is a way to know if you feel confortable with the service or not.
  • You have options: in many sites you have the option to control your privacy settings, for example Facebook lets you choose if your profile can be searchable by Google and Snapchat lets you choose if you want to share your location with the company and others.

Something to have in mind: if the service is free, you (and your data) are probably the product.

5. Cyborgs of today.

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When we think about cyborgs we think way into the future, but we don’t realize that the future is now. With 24/7 connectivity in the palm of our hands and a non-stop stream of health checks and personal data being picked up and stored by a variety of wearables we have to realize that we are technologically enhanced humans (cyborgs) and this comes with a great responsibility.

How do we help students to face it: When it comes to teaching “how to be a responsible cyborg” I think we should make an emphasis on etiquette, here are some basic guidelines to share and discuss with students, friends and family alike:

  • What is the situation? as a rule of thumb, any place that requires your personal attention such as a class, a meeting, the theatre, the movies etc, is not a place to be using your device. Also in an academic or professional environment the use of devices for other than work is frowned upon, be mindful of the Acceptable Use Policies of the school.
  • How are others around me reacting? your interactions depend on the environment you are in. Always be thoughtful of those around you and see their reactions, some groups may be more permitting than others.
  • Am I in control? it is easy to fall into a routine and make technology a priority, be deliberate with your actions and prioritize  face to face interaction.



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