Librarians are at the forefront of teaching digital citizenship. Children often experience their first lessons on the topic from their public or school librarian. In our information age with screens everywhere, the role of a librarian is more important than ever before. Are you looking for IRL and online digital citizenship program ideas? Look below:
1. Incorporate digital citizenship into early literacy
Every Child Ready to Read (ECCR) is a parent education initiative from the Public Library Association (PLA) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). This program has research-based practices to develop early literacy skills. The ECCR elements are often incorporated into librarians’ programs. Caregivers are encouraged to Read, Write, Talk, Sing and Play with their children in order to prepare to read.
Librarians can add digital citizenship instruction and practices as they teach the five practices. For example, the practice of Talk can be adapted to modeling digitally healthy behaviors. Parents should describe what they are doing on their devices, talk out loud during work tasks or while searching for something. This can help teach young children what can be done with technology. For many children, their first use of a phone or device is watching a video or playing a game. By talking about work-specific tasks, caregivers let children know there are many other uses for a device.
2. Run a digital citizenship-themed story time
Consider having a digital citizenship themed story time where early literacy principles can be shared and children can be introduced to technology-related books. Some fictional picture books for preschoolers include:
- #Goldilocks: a hashtag cautionary tale by Jeanne Willis
- Dot by Randi Zuckerberg
- Hello! Hello! By Matthew Cordell
3. Digital citizenship passive programs
This passive program involves sharing quick and simple tips on digital citizenship. This could be something as simple as bookmarks given out at story times that include easy-to-follow online safety rules. You could create a library Pinterest account, curated with digital citizenship resources for patrons. You could create a bulletin board to inspire participation, like one that asks, “Who do you want to be online?” You could also share a weekly tip or suggestion on digital citizenship practices on social media channels. (Follow #digcittip or #usetech4good for some ideas.)
Librarians are busy and passive programs should take less time for staff. After curating digital citizenship tips and strategies, librarians can have a ready-to-go list for passive activities. For example, U.S. Media Literacy Week was at the end of October and their site has suggestions of activities and tips for the week. Dr. Kristy Roschke, the Managing Director of Arizona State University’s News Co, also has suggestions of simple media literacy tips for librarians. “You want to teach them quick things to put into place when they need them, like when they feel a strong reaction or when it’s something that they really care about,” she advised. Resources, strategies, suggestions and tips should be ready to share when patrons have a strong reaction, misinformation goes viral or a controversial topic hits the news. Go beyond just one week and include regular media literacy activities on library accounts evaluating sources or suggesting sources.
4. Use Anime or geek-themed library clubs to teach copyright
Fans of fandoms love their characters and stories. This can manifest through creative projects like stories on Archive of Our Own or through violating copyright. A solid understanding of digital law is a part of digital citizenship; something that fans of geek culture, often teens, do not have. Violating copyright can have the unfortunate result of hurting the creators of the content fans love. For example, scanlations, or fan-made scanning, editing and translating of comics, has been accused of contributing to declining sales for Japanese publishers. When libraries run geek clubs and talk about movies, TV shows, characters and more—they can also bring up following and respecting copyright.
5. Have student and patron centered media literacy
“Librarians already teach information literacy,” said Dr. Roschke. “They’re very skilled in how to guide students in the direction of credible academic information. But in today’s world, information is in a big bundle.” Technology has changed the way educators should speak about media literacy.
Roschke suggests librarians focus on the first places students find information. “If you send a kid to write a paper; they’re going to Google it.” She suggests librarians structure the process of teaching information literacy to be more student driven. The student can do the research and bring back the sources, “then the librarian does the lesson about how some of these things are better than other things. It’s rooted in the experience they’ve already had as opposed to teaching them how to do and then fixing how to do it.”
Librarians could have their own “open office” or “virtual hours” where patrons could bring their source questions. They could also think about going beyond the database to YouTube or other sources that students typically visit.
As the online access point for millions of Americans, and often a child’s first teacher on these concepts, librarians have an opportunity to continue to be at the forefront of digital citizenship learning.
Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a former librarian and current CEO of the mission-based company, Digital Respons-Ability. She is the author of the forthcoming title, Becoming a Digital Parent: A Practical Guide to Help Families Navigate Technology and is working on a future book to help librarians incorporate digital citizenship into their programs.