Digital Rights & Responsibilities

With increased use of technology and high usage of the internet by young people, it is imperative that schools take some responsibility in making sure students of all ages know what are their rights and responsibilities as a digital citizen, what appropriate digital behaviour is, and how to protect themselves and their technology from external threats.

Digital citizenship involves knowing how to utilise technology in order to engage appropriately and responsibly in society. A digital citizen applies their skills and knowledge in using a computer, mobile phone or web-ready device, and the internet, to participate in and contribute to personal and school environments.

Rights and responsibilities

Digital rights and responsibilities set an expectation that each user will follow the rules and procedures, as identified in school and at home. In an ideal world, when someone posts, shares, comments, emails and so forth, others will enjoy the information without abusing it, passing it off as their own work, or use it to threaten or harass. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and it is important to set some boundaries and maybe advocate the mantra of do not harm. Students need a clear understanding of how to behave in an online world.

Through internet-enabled devices, students can be active digital users and need to develop respect for others, self and intellectual property as online consumers and creators. They need to build trust in an online space and be trusted. Some simple tips to survive include follow acceptable use policies, use online material ethically, including citing resources and/or requesting permissions, report cyberbullying, threats and other inappropriate use.

The High-Wire Act: cyber-safety and the young interim report (Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety 2011) identified several areas of risk for young Australians as follows:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Cyberstalking, online grooming and sexting
  • Exposure to illegal and inappropriate content
  • Technology addition
  • Breaches of privacy and identity theft
  • Information sharing

In addition to the submissions received, the committee also conducted a survey (Are you safe?) involving 33,751 participants aged between 5 and 18 years of age. When asked the question, ‘Where did you learn about cyber-safety?’, 42% indicated at school, 31% from family and 14% from friends. When asked, ‘What can be done to make the online environment safer?, 24% indicated the need to learn about it at school, which was followed closely by the need to talk about it with family. It is evident that the school plays an extremely important role in the education of young people and that family provide a supportive role when youngsters face the personal risks of being online. It is estimated that about 20 per cent of young Australians aged 8-17 have experienced cyberbullying. With the peak age group of 10-15 year olds being the highest targeted group (Katz et al, 2014, p.2).

An objective of the school community is to make students more aware of the issues and consequences of engaging in a digital society, and, subsequently, what their rights and responsibilities should be when online.

An extremely useful site for digital rights and responsibilities is the Common Sense Education K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum (2015) .

For primary aged students they can learn that staying safe online is similar to staying safe in the real world. Learning the basics for crediting creative works is also on the agenda as well as developing an understanding of what plagiarism really means for them. They explore what cyberbullying means and what they can do when they encounter nasty online behaviour. The classroom lessons at this site allow students to compare and contrast and explore similarities and differences between in-person versus online communication.

Secondary students learn higher level skills such as identifying what factors can intensify online cruelty and cyberbullying as well as creating solutions for dealing with cyberbullying situations and being able to help others when this occurs. They are introduced to more detail on copyright, fair use and the rights they have as a creator of information as well as valuing the creative works of others.

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