Relationships & Communication

Whether we're reading an online review, posting something on a social-networking site, texting a friend, or sharing a photo through an app, we're participating in a world where we can be instantly connected to thousands of people at a moment's notice. When kids connect with each other from a distance or through a screen name, it can affect the way they behave. For example, their actions can feel removed from consequences or free from discovery. When people are anonymous, it's easier to behave irresponsibly, cruelly, or unethically. Others may simply misinterpret the tone and context of messages or posts. Kids need a code of conduct for using the Internet and mobile media just as they need a code of conduct in the offline world. They should be empowered to be good digital citizens, in addition to being good citizens in general.

Why Teach It?

Help your students …

  • recognize that different audiences require different types of communication and online etiquette;
  • develop constructive solutions to online interpersonal dilemmas that exemplify ethical behavior;
  • and imagine the motivations, feelings, and intentions of others as they relate to a variety of online exchanges.

Anything your students say or do with their phones or through quick messages may seem to disappear when the devices shut down, but the impact on others remains -- whether good or bad. As a teacher, you can guide your students to think critically about different forms and norms of digital communication. Guide them to choose their words wisely. Help them develop the habit of self-reflecting before posting or texting, asking themselves questions such as "Who is my audience?" and "What's the purpose of this message?" and "In what context will people be reading this?" With your help, they can learn to recognize that their decisions online can have more far-reaching benefits and consequences than their actions offline because of technology's power to connect.