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Digital Citizenship

Over the course of history, Lutherans have purposefully used the media to share the Gospel message. For example, Martin Luther himself embraced the printing press and nearly 100 years ago KFUO went on the air. In order to continue to effectively use media to communicate the Gospel and connect with one another, we need to teach our students good digital citizenship practices. 

The Christian values that you daily teach and reinforce are just as essential online as they are in person. Here are some ways you can teach your students about interacting online:

  • Christian Influence: Share links to websites such as www.biblegateway.com where students can access various translations of the Bible. Provide a private space for students to share prayers and devotional thoughts online with one another. This will encourage them in their faith and give them practice sharing their faith through media. 
  • Comments: Model comments that build one another up versus tear each other down. Encourage respect and empathy. Consider offering positive sentence frames for students to use to respond to each other’s posts. 
  • Tone: Our tone of voice plays a huge role in our face-to-face interactions, but it can easily be misinterpreted in text. Give a few students a sentence to read and have them read it in various tones of voice and discuss how the meaning of the text changed. Then discuss the importance of carefully choosing words to be read so they’re less likely to be misinterpreted, especially because once they’re posted online they will never be completely erased. 
  • Stray from Stealing: Teach students that copying and pasting text or pictures is stealing someone else’s work, even if it is “just for our class.” Encourage students to share their original creations and credit where they got information or pictures from. Model this in your lessons by citing your sources.
  • Clickbait: Teach students to identify and avoid advertisements or titles that make them feel outraged. These may lead to non-trusted websites that may be inappropriate or infect computers with malware or cookies. Instead, teach students how to efficiently utilize the search engine and encourage them to read the meta descriptions below the link titles. Encourage them to rephrase their search if they can’t quickly find what they’re looking for.
  • Privacy: Adjust privacy settings to be more restrictive and coach students with which websites to log into using an incognito window so their usernames and passwords aren’t saved for the next person. In addition, teach students to have unique passwords that are not just their name, birthday, or favorite pet’s name. Those are too easy for their classmates to guess. 

I challenge you to practice good digital citizenship yourself by interacting with others around the globe on this blog and the LEA Facebook Group. Consider the following questions and comment below. 

  1. How do you teach digital citizenship? 
  2. How do you balance time online and offline with your students? 

Please teach students to be mindful about how they use media- perhaps they’ll use it for ministry! 

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Esther Dunlop has a passion for STEM education and currently teaches 4th grade at St. Luke’s in Oviedo, Florida. She started her career teaching preschool, then fourth grade at Immanuel Lutheran in Olivette, Mo.

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