Build a Healthy Digital Environment

Creating a healthy digital environment within a school community is an essential component of school climate and digital citizenship. Ultimately, schools should produce students who are full digital citizens--ethical, responsible, and resilient.

What happens online can materially affect what can be accomplished in the classroom.
A healthy digital environment includes five levels of preparation for success, following the public health model: Prevention, Detection, Intervention, and Incident Management. This is the Generation Safe(tm) vision for a healthy digital environment:

  1. Training for Students and Staff: The whole school community has the opportunity to participate a healthy digital environment as fully functioning digital citizens. Students and staff are able to collaborate, communicate, and innovate in digital environments in a way that’s responsible, secure, and safe.
  2. Prevention: In the digital environment there is no one-product-fits-all prevention program to cover the range of digital and public health issues that students will encounter (safety, security, ethics). Prevention includes a whole school understanding of expectations for digital communications (guidelines for acceptable behavior and consequences for infractions).
  3. Detection: The whole school community is trained to recognize warning signs of at-risk students for a variety of digital and public health issues--particularly those that show up in digital environments where students are often emboldened to share indicators of their well-being.
  4. Intervention: Schools have systems that make reporting easy for the whole school community. These might include texting intervention, an anonymous phone line to receive calls, email reporting, etc., where students can easily report evidence of harassment or at-risk behaviors in their peers online. For these programs to be effective, students and staff must live with a feeling of connectedness in the school community, where students know at least one staff member whom they trust enough to feel comfortable reporting.
  5. Incident Management: All stakeholders know how to manage an incident. This will include clear expectations for first responders, administration, and anyone involved in collecting evidence, conducting interviews, or interacting with local authorities to resolve an incident.

The digital environment used by students and staff is an important component of the broader school climate. Our friends at the National School Climate Center explain: “A sustainable positive school climate is the foundation for learning and positive development for youth and includes:

Effective prevention efforts involve shaping norms, expectations, and our beliefs about what is acceptable behavior. One of the most important preventive steps that educators can do is to support meaningful discussions and decision-making about what is “acceptable behavior” for members – students and adults – of your school community.

For more information, search the Resource Library for “digital environment” and “school climate.”