“The Internet” Killed Grandma


I got a request from a teacher to share some ideas about Digital Citizenship with her class. No real specifics, just ‘anything’ on the subject.  We had already started by signing up for Digital Passport and they had been working in class on this idea, but she wanted a bit more.

I had been reading about the use of props to explain Digital Citizenship and whilst I didn’t have the props with me, I had the next best thing: a photo slideshow.

SIDE NOTE: I made my slideshow using Google Slides.  If you are unfamiliar with Google Slides but familiar with Keynote or Powerpoint you will find it an easy transition.The best reason for switching to Google Slides? The search features are the same as Google which means you can filter images for only those which allow noncommercial use with modification.  You can also filter size, picture style, color and upload to your presentation via URL.  So handy!  Here is my Tool Kit presentation. 

EXTRA SIDE NOTE: I made my presentation last week to use with students. Today I found the slides already created with additional guiding questions which I have shared with the class teachers as an addition to our discussions:

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 13.52.45
Image Credit

Each picture was supposed to connect the students with an idea to do with digital citizenship: the padlock represents strong passwords, the toothbrush to remind you that you don’t share your toothbrush so you shouldn’t share your passwords (love that one). The picture of Grandma was to remind you to ask yourself “What would Grandma think?” – would you be comfortable doing what you are doing if Grandma was watching? Seems logical except that some kids said “Don’t post pictures of your family because bad guys will track you down and know where you live and they will kill you and your grandma.”

Seriously.  Dead serious.  These kids were not playing.  Fourth graders.

This really bothers me.  Why is the internet and online activity put in such a harsh light? Are our practices in need of evolving? Do we need to educate parents? Ourselves? Is the idea that a photo of a loving grandma triggers the thought of death in the mind of a fourth grader not worrisome?

Most of the reasoning behind talking about internet safety and responsible use came down (in the minds of many students) to the idea that “bad people” were out to get us. I really feel that the internet gets a bad reputation primarily because people don’t understand how it works. The Myths and Truths article is great in that it debunks popular thoughts (myths) and sheds more important truths for parents and educators. I am all for safety measures but at the same time, pretty much anything can kill you if done in excess, inappropriately or without caution. Case in point:

Image Credit

A popular image has been circulating that sums up the more positive aspects of citizenship and digital citizenship in one.  I particularly like the extension questions that help to clarify the thinking at each point. But are these things alone, enough?

Image Credit



Just before our October break, I got an email from someone I have never met in person but we share mutual friends based on the Venn Diagram of our Twitter followers and have worked with some of the same people.  Based on following my blog for the past nine months, reading my resume online and feeling a connection with the ideas that I share, this person asked me to consider moving to her school to be the Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator.

I love that. The power of an online presence right there in my own little case study!

I was told a few years ago by a recruiter at the Search Job Fair that he googled everyone who applied.  He said that your online presence was instrumental in how you would proceed with him:

Online Presence Doesn’t Reflect the School’s Values: End of the road in your recruitment journey. 

Online Presence is established or growing, mindful, thoughtful, and empowering: You were still in with a shot. 

Online Presence doesn’t exist: You were not ready for his school. 

In his words, the job market was competitive and he had to think of ways to determine who he would spend time with.  Using his logic, a poorly constructed digital footprint was just as damning as an non-existant one. For some, this could be a daunting thought!

Both of these recruiters were looking for connections. They wanted to connect with people who share the same ideas or are inspired to work with those that can articulate their thinking and are looking to connect with others. As I have been helping another friend with her Search Associates applications, the word that keeps showing up in the job descriptions is connected.  Recruiters are looking for connected educators who can connect ideas, connect with other educators, connect with their students. It is one thing to say that you are connected, it is another to prove this via a number of avenues – including your connected, online presence.

I like the idea of adding the idea of connectivity to our repertoire of tools when teaching kids about digital footprints. The topic is much broader than simply being safe and thinking about your posts. It is about creating an online impression similar to your real-life impression.  It is about connecting with others who share the same ideas, adding to the conversation in order to spark new ideas, and sharing generously of yourself with a community of learners.

As technology expert and education advocate, Will Richardson explains:

One of my worst fears as [my children] grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. … that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all.  Will Richardson

Image Credit
Image Credit
Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.42.27
Image Credit

With this in mind, I think that some of the leading creators of Digital Citizenship materials, such as the fabulous Commonsense Media, would do well to update their materials to include reference to the idea that ‘good’ digital citizens use their online time to connect with ideas that inspire them and share their learning in community with others.

I think if we create the image of the web as something positive, something we can learn from and contribute to, we we start to see the evolution of even greater innovation and idea spreading – and fewer dead grandmas.