New Maltese workbooks help young people learn digital citizenship skills

  • Awareness
  • 08/03/2017
  • Maltese Safer Internet Centre/Stephen Camilleri, Education Officer – PSCD

As part of the BeSmartOnline! project in Malta, Personal Social and Career Development (PSCD) Education Officers have developed a series of workbooks to help teach young people digital citizenship skills. Read on to find out more.

Children and youth are among the biggest users of online and mobile technologies. While we undertake every effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of ourselves and others in the real world, the same has to be done in the virtual world. Statistics gathered from research carried out with students aged 11 to 14 between 2014 and 2015 has shown that up to 72 per cent of Maltese youth between the ages of 11 and 12 have a Facebook profile, although this is against the rules of the popular social networking site (the minimum age for a profile being 13). More than 90 per cent of youths between the ages of 13 and 14 also make heavy use of social networking and 56 per cent have internet access on their smartphones.

The BeSmartOnline! Project, which is co-funded by the European Commission as part of a network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Europe, has the aim of raising awareness and educating children and young people, parents, carers and educators on the safer use of the internet by children. The project is implemented through a consortium which is coordinated by the Malta Communications Authority and includes the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, the Office of the Commissioner for Children and also the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education. With the funding obtained through the project, the Personal Social and Career Development (PSCD) Education Officers, in collaboration with the PSCD peripatetic teachers, have developed three different workbooks entitled "Communicating respectfully, Choosing wisely, and Making good use of digital technology" for Year 3, 4 and 5 students respectively.

The aim of the workbooks is that of developing 21st century digital citizenship skills from a very young age. The workbooks, which are interactive, fun and thought provoking, are an important tool being used by PSCD teachers so that students learn how to communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly online. Comparison between online and offline citizenship is emphasised within the workbooks to ensure that students are made aware that the virtual community to which they belong also has its rules and regulations.

With the aid of these workbooks, various areas related to digital citizenship education are being explored since children and youth, more often than not, embrace technology without examining the consequences of what they post, search or download. Therefore emphasis on the importance of protecting one's private information, communicating respectfully, and being careful on what one posts online are all given their due importance. Attention is also given to the importance of creating online personas that project a positive and constructive image, how to prevent, protect and report cyberbullying, and how students look up, select and streamline information from the internet and thus choose authentic sources of information.

The workbooks provide a proactive way of helping students engage with the digital world, being an excellent tool to help students acquire the necessary skills that include, among others, media literacy skills and communication and critical skills.

Find out more about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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