The following blog was contributed by Christina Jontra, Chief Navigator at Neptune Navigate, [email protected].
The resources that are available to us today can be used to enhance the learning experience of our students. We have the ability to see galaxies never seen before, communicate easily with people all around the globe and view art and artifacts in museums without ever leaving our classrooms. With all of these resources, we also have the responsibility to teach our students how to use them responsibly.
The sheer amount of information our students and we have at our fingertips today is staggering. No longer are we limited to accessing information from books accessible only during a library’s operating hours.
With technologies like virtual reality, teachers can take virtual field trips to museums and tour historical sites all over the world without ever leaving the classroom. In addition, some of the most prestigious universities in the country offer free online classes in various subjects.
Attaining knowledge and information is not a problem for anyone living in 2022. However, with access to all this technology and the information that comes with it, educators are responsible for teaching students how to navigate this digital world safely.
This responsibility comes straight from the teachings of Jesus. In three of the four Gospels, Jesus explains that it would be better to tie a millstone around one’s neck than to cause a child to stumble. The technology that we make available to students has the ability to cause one to stumble, so it is our responsibility to protect against it.
Educating students in this digital age must include more than meeting their academic needs. It is our responsibility also to equip students to protect both their reputations and their privacy online, recognize and respond to cyberbullying and ensure that the information they are accessing is accurate and reliable.
Current research indicates that 13- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 8 hours and 39 minutes each day looking at a screen. We cannot assume that because students spend so much time online, they intuitively know how to make social media work for them and not against them. Understanding that in the digital world, everything is permanent and nothing is ever really private is of utmost importance.
We need to be intentional about teaching students how to protect their privacy when posting on social media. We are good at protecting our privacy in the real world. We don’t share things like our social security numbers, house keys or vacation plans with strangers. However, too often online, students share so many details about their daily life that it is easy for strangers to find them in real life or steal their identities.
Every report regarding teens’ online activity warns about the prevalence of cyberbullying. Many estimate that 7 out of 10 kids in America have been the target of cyberbullying. We can’t ignore this problem. We need to equip our kids to identify and respond to cyberbullying when they see it online. Too many kids suffer in silence when they are the target of a cyberbully. Statistics indicate that 70 percent of kids who are bullied online never tell anyone. We must communicate to all our students that we are more than willing to help them in these situations.
Finally, accessing information is not our problem. We are bombarded with more information every day than our ancestors had in their lifetime. The problem today is having the skills to identify accurate and reliable information. Sadly, the internet is not organized like our school libraries. Websites are not labeled nonfiction or fiction. We have to give students the tools to determine what constitutes a reliable news source. This is a skill that we have to start teaching in the early grades and continue throughout high school. The resources available today can be used to enhance the learning experience of our students. The vast amount of information and data so readily available to us is staggering, and with it comes a responsibility to teach students how to safely and responsibly navigate and manage it. As the writer of Proverbs implores us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)