The Internet has the ability to completely obliterate silos. When everyone is one click away, it would seem easy to connect, share, and collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders involved in digital citizenship. Digital citizenship, and its focus on improving the ways we utilize technology (safe/savvy/ethical), is important to educators, administrators, parents, students, industry, and various non-profits. It turns out it is not that easy. That’s why I decided to put together the Digital Citizenship Summit with college professor Marialice B.F.X. Curran, and that’s why I hope that you will lend your voice to the conversation by attending. We need to work together. The inaugural event happens on Saturday, October 3rd at the University of Saint Joseph (West Hartford, CT). The day will feature four sessions of speakers, a panel discussion on the future of digital citizenship, countless networking opportunities, and more. This has never been done. Why do this? A few months ago I was reading an article about an elementary school that was having a problem with kids under 13 using Instagram (13 is the age requirement). The principal decided to send a letter to parents to inform them that their under-13 children should not be using Instagram. Some of the parents were upset that the principal was dictating how the parents deal with their child’s tech use. Everyone was unhappy. How do we solve this problem? As it stands, the parent silo is giving their opinion, the educator silo is discussing their role in educating kids on tech use, the administrators are concerned with potential issues coming from inappropriate photos, and industry is wondering about the best ways of age verification. Everyone is talking, but those groups are not talking to each other. What would happen of all of these groups were at the same proverbial table? The lofty goal with the Digital Citizenship Summit is to change that. That’s why we’ve adopted the mantra: be the digital change. From talking to countless groups and individuals from across the country who are focused on improving tech use, I sensed a certain level of frustration. We all agreed that there was a need, or even a hunger, but there was something that was lacking: an outlet. We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but at a certain point we want to influence change. Less talk, more action. We can influence change by working together, sharing best practices, bringing a diverse range of opinions to the table, and seeking out solutions. As beneficial as the Internet is with connecting people, there is something to be said about the physicality of being in the same room. Instead of looking for Likes, we will be looking for sparks. Everyone who is at the event should have a powerful voice that is able to influence the larger conversation regarding digital citizenship. You can be the digital change. The Digital Citizenship Summit is your microphone.
David Ryan Polgar is a frequent writer, speaker (two-time TEDx), and commentator about the ethical, legal, and emotional impact of technology. @TechEthicist