In a world where teachers and students increasingly rely on the internet for information, knowledge of digital citizenship, privacy, and net neutrality are of growing importance. According to The Pew Research Center, the overwhelming majority of teenagers across all income levels access the internet every day – some on a nearly ongoing basis (Lenhart, 2015). As teachers, we are very comfortable with the notion of community and character education through schools. Extending our definition of community to online spaces is the next natural evolution. We teach our students safety in the physical community. Safety lessons can now extend to the online extension of our world. The lessons that we teach our students are for application in the real world. According to what the teens are telling us, much of their “real world” is happening through digital contexts (Perrin, 2015).
The internet is a dynamic environment that changes every second. Each interaction that we have online, whether it be with a human or with content, contributes to the future of how the internet is shaped. Data from clicks, views, likes, and searches are harvested by the companies that users interact with. An important lesson for our students is how to protect our data and our online interactions from unintended viewers. Students should be taught about the prized data trail that they leave as they simply search the internet for things that interest them. According to a 2015 poll, 93% of US Americans believe that being in control of who can get to their data is important (Madden, M., & Raine, L., 2015). To be in control of our data, users must first be aware of who is collecting it. Teachers can be a first line of informing our students on the value of their online data and how to control who can collect it if possible.
Equity of access is a twofold issue. Users access the internet varies across socioeconomic lines, with some groups relying more on smart phones as their primary devices, while other more affluent groups have multiple modes of access (Lenhart, 2015). Access to information, online educational opportunities, and the convenience that access to the internet affords is not available equally across all households across the United States (Perrin, 2015). This impacts access to opportunities across households.
The second issue concerning wealth and equity of access is net neutrality. Fortunately, the Federal Communication Commission elected to preserve the free and open internet (2015). This means that companies cannot pay an internet service provider (ISP) for prioritized performance on their networks, nor can a company pay to slow down or block a competitor’s traffic on a network (An introduction to net neutrality, 2014). The users would remain free to decide what resources they would favor. Companies would have to spend their money on good, old-fashioned advertising to promote their resources (Reardon, M., 2015). High-quality, free resources would rise to the top on their own merits, and still be accessible because the internet would remain an open marketplace.
This is especially important to educators, non-profits, and students because there are so many of us in search of high-quality resources and information. If the vast majority of online content was controlled by a few wealthy groups, the quality, variety, and veracity of that information would be suspect (Long, 2015). The internet is our modern-day, more inclusive public forum. Anyone and everyone can have a voice, and that is what makes the internet infinite.
Because of the many complex issues that users face when interacting online, it is important to start educating our students early about safety, citizenship, and the importance of fairness across the internet.
An introduction to net neutrality. (2014) Retrieved from http://www.marshalldata.com/2014/05/an-introduction-to-net-neutrality-what-it-is-what-it-means-for-you-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/ (Note: This is an introduction before the FCCs ruling)
Federal Communications Commission (2015). Open internet. Retrieved from https://www.fcc.gov/openinternet
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teen, social media and technology overview 2015. The Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/
Long, C. (2015). What net neutrality means for students and Educators. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2015/03/11/net-neutrality-means-students-educators/
Madden, M., & Raine, L. (2015). Americans' attitudes about privacy, security and surveillance. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-security-and-surveillance/
Perrin, A. (2015). Social networking usage: 2005-2015. Pew research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/10/PI_2015-10-08_Social-Networking-Usage-2005-2015_FINAL.pdf
Reardon, M. (2015). 13 Things you need to know about the FCC’s net neutrality regulation. Retrieved from http://www.cnet.com/news/13-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-fccs-net-neutrality-regulation/
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