Discussing online integrity with my 16-year old nephew

My (short) experience using Snapchat and my last blog post on my major project made me think even more about the role of integrity in education.

I spent some days with my family in Brazil at the end of the last month, and I decided to talk about integrity and the digital world with one of my nephews, who is 16. Our conversation started like this:

And ended up somewhat like this: I tried explaining to him the consequences of sharing or writing something that may bring bad consequences in the future, to him and to his friends. I gave him an example that even though everybody is sharing something and/or making fun of someone else, he should not do it. I also said that if he is not sure if we, his mother and myself, would approve what he is doing online, he should refrain from doing it.

I don’t think it was a bad conversation, but certainly, it was not a good one. It is not for a short visit and even shorter conversation that someone is going to teach online integrity to a 16-year old teenager. These teachings take time and should be a constant. I felt a little bit disappointed by the way I approached it. I don’t have children, so I believe I started the conversation in the wrong way.

How can we teach digital integrity to our students then?

The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal is a real example of how unsafe the majority of apps are. This makes me remember what our professor Dr. Coursos said in one of our classes this semester; he said something like this: “you are using this free app at a great cost to you”. “Click on the cow game” is another example that clearly illustrates how unsafe everything we do online is. However, it is not the false sense of privacy which bothers me the most. What really does not make sense to me is why someone would do online what they wouldn’t do in person. This is why I believe we need to start talking about digital integrity.

Image by Shutterstock at Todateen,com.br

Why was gossiping discouraged by our parents? For the same reason why we should not share something that may damage someone’s reputation, ours or someone else’s.

We can start by asking ourselves how we want to be perceived. Then we need to assess what we like, share, and post online. I believe it is a good start, and I am willing to learn more about online integrity and ways to help my students do the same.

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