As I teach students to code, one thing I stress is good digital citizenship and online privacy. For instance, as I teach elementary students about using Scratch, I point out that having a Scratch account* enables them to save and share their own projects, create studios, and leave comments on projects, profiles, and studios. But with great power comes great responsibility. For many, this may be the first time they are interacting with people they don’t know online. Learning how to offer constructive criticism, what information is safe to share, and where their information is visible is very important.
Scratch has a set of Community Guidelines and FAQs users must follow in order to retain their account. Community guidelines or user policies are a part of many reputable sites in order to create a friendly and safe online environment for users. Scratch is for ages 8 and up, so it’s important that content shared is appropriate for all ages. When offering criticism or commentary, Scratch users must keep in mind everyone on Scratch is learning. I teach my students that one rule of thumb to follow is: If it isn’t right to say to someone’s face, it isn’t right to post. I remixed and added to a fun Scratch project about the Community Guidelines that I show students during one of our Scratch lessons.
Site users must keep in mind that their comments and shared projects are visible not just to other Scratchers but to the world. So information that could be used to identify them (such as their real last name, exact birthday, town they live in, or school name) or links enabling private communication (such as email or social media accounts) must be avoided.
If you are looking to test your own knowledge of digital citizenship and online privacy, or wanting to start conversations with your student, here are some other helpful resources I use:
- Common Sense Education has a variety of videos and lessons broken up by age.
- Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” games are fun to play while students lean about different aspects of online life.
- Check out the “Safe Online Surfing” FBI Internet Safety Campaign.
- Check out “Stop. Think. Connect.”
- And here is a BrainPop Internet Safety Video + Exercise.
*Students should always ask a parent or guardian before registering an account online and/or giving out private information.