Digital Citizenship, Online Privacy, and Fact Checking

Digital Citizenship and Online Privacy

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.

And users should also be aware of the information a website is collecting on them and who they share that information with. A website’s privacy policy is a great place to find that information.

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:

Fact Checking

And once students have an understanding of being a good digital citizen, it is great to also talk about fact checking what they find online.

  • Show examples of “clickbait” headlines that could lure the reader to untrustworthy websites or questionable content, such as ads disguised as news.
  • Show how to look at a site for signs it could be fake, such as:
    • the lack of SLL/the padlock, unusual domains with endings like “.com.co” (a site could be mimicking a legitimate site to gain views, like a news site, but contain bogus content)
    • shocking quotes you can’t find by searching on any other legitimate sources or that are attributed to the wrong date or out of context
    • images that don’t accurately reflect what the article is about (students can conduct a reverse image search on Google by copying the image address, going to images.google.com, putting the image address in the search box) to see if that image accompanies stories about a similar topic or not
  • Help students determine if the website is a trusted source. Untrustworthy sources often post mostly opinion-based pieces, versus fact-based pieces that cite credible sources and/or research. Also help them spot satire (look for site disclaimers).
  • Help them look for context clues to see about the credibility of a site, for instance:
    • Has the site been around for a long time?
    • Does the site have a record of posting credible stories?
    • Is there the ability to contact someone who owns or runs the site?
    • Is there an “about us” that describes their mission and purpose?
  • Have students note if the authors cited or are they anonymous. What are their credentials and what qualifies them as subject matter experts?
  • Show them how to look and see if an article or video cites its sources, is based on research/links to research, and/or the information shared is backed up by other trusted sources. If links are present, are they working?
  • Have the students note when was the information posted. Has it been revised or updated?
  • Talk about the effects of confirmation bias, where our own beliefs lead us to more readily accept information that confirms our already held beliefs while ignoring information that doesn’t. The more viewpoints you take in (from credible sources), the more well-rounded understanding of an issue you can develop.

Here are some fact-checking resources to explore with your students:

*Students should always ask a parent or guardian before registering an account online and/or giving out private information.

Other posts to explore: