Every day, technology plays a larger role in the early childhood classroom than before, which means that understanding digital citizenship for kids is more important than ever! For many parents and teachers, the first step in learning about digital citizenships is finding the answer to these questions: what does digital citizenship mean and why is digital citizenship important? The concept of digital citizenship for students is directly tied to digital literacy and the overall debate over the use of technology in preschool classrooms.
From the time personal computers were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s, a debate over whether or not to use technology in early childhood education has existed. But today, with the introduction of developmentally appropriate technology and educational resources found in apps and games, technology is more kid friendly than before. This means that from the first time students are introduced to technology, they are developing their digital literacy and becoming digital citizens.
So what is digital literacy and how does it relate to being a digital citizen? A wonderful resource for parents and teachers interested in the digital world’s impact on young children, Digital Decisions, defines digital literacy as “the ability to find and use information and to communicate using technology.” This means that the better students understand technology and the more they use it to effectively learn and communicate, the more digitally literate they become. This makes them digital citizens, or people who understand and use technology safely, effectively, and appropriately. This also means that from the time technology is introduced into an early childhood classroom that teachers should focus on key points of technology use like internet skills, basic hardware and software skills, online safety, security, and privacy, and online awareness.
Overall, digital citizenship is important because it teaches children how to use technology responsibly and safely in order to make the most out of their digital literacy. It does not mean that young children in a preschool setting will only be sitting in front of a computer screen to learn. Instead, it means that when presented with new technology that enriches and supports their education, as digital citizens they’ll be ready to meet any challenges the future may hold and better prepared for lifelong learning!