Exciting things are happening in Utah around the issue of digital citizenship. A collaborative effort on HB213 (a 2015 bill sponsored by Representative Keven Stratton) folded digital citizenship into the language of the law that outlines responsibilities of school community councils. (Councils consist of parents, the principal, and school employees who make proposals for academic uses of school land trust funds.) HB213 also allowed for subcommittees to be formed and for nonprofits to be able to assist with implementation of digital citizenship responsibilities.
Interestingly (and unfortunately for the United States), Utah is the only state that currently has “digital citizenship” in the law. In a world where technology is part of the fabric of American life, and where often millions of dollars are spent on technology infrastructure in schools, it’s long past time that more proactive policy and community attention be given to helping young people not just avoid harms online but also be positive contributors in the world around them with the help of technology.
DigCitUtah was created by EPIK Deliberate Digital (a Utah non-profit) with the initial purpose to help support school community councils with their responsibilities around digital citizenship. The Resources Library includes dozens of categorized resources that schools can use to get some digital citizenship education in place.
But the vision for DigCitUtah goes beyond curricula or specific resources, although such can be helpful. As Keven Stratton said in an interview for an EdWeek article (written by Erin McNeill of Media Literacy Now), “This is an all-hands-on-deck issue.” EPIK was formed in 2014 specifically for the purpose of facilitating and expanding collaboration around the issue of raising children in a digital world. This is not something that just the education sector needs to be concerned about, and teachers alone cannot possibly tackle the many facets of what it means to use technology wisely, safely, respectfully — and positively. Nor should adults try to just manage or teach or control children and their technology use. Adults need to learn from, listen to, engage with and involve youth around them to co-create solutions and ideas about positive, creative, proactive digital citizenship.
As Representative Stratton was quoted saying in another article (this one by Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, Senior Librarian in Salt Lake County), “[T]oo often we get caught in the trap of ‘don’t do this’ instead of ‘how’ or ‘why’ we do this. So often we close doors without opening vistas.”
Vistas can best be opened when we reach across our sectors and silos and move beyond fear and reactivity to look at our digital world with more hope, deliberateness, and creativity. Conversation, collaboration, positive energy, and commitment from everyone in the community — adult and youth alike — can help us collectively not only meet the challenges but leverage the yet-undiscovered opportunities of our 21st century world.