Necessity of Digital Citizenship – #1 Illegal Downloading/Filesharing

This will be the first of what will hopefully be many reasons as to why it’s important to teach digital citizenship in the school system. It’s a subject sometimes pushed aside for other things, or where some parts are more heavily focused on than others. Most of what will go here will be my own experiences, or experiences that are related to me.

All of this came about due to a conversation I had yesterday with someone in their early 20s. It was focused on music and downloading instead of purchasing. In short, they felt that it was okay to download music instead of purchasing it because they had other things to take care of instead. Illegal downloading and file sharing had been a topic I had recently focused on with 1st graders, and I was surprised to find this person so clearly feeling this way. They were not worried about consequences or ever being caught for what they were doing.

Before I go further, I’m not innocent on this topic. I grew up in the age of Napster, Kazaa, and LimeWire, and any other services of similar ilk. I was a user of LimeWire, although not extensively, and of course when the RIAA began their crackdown that came as a shock. I was a silly high school kid then, and it wasn’t until I was mostly through college where I quit any sort illegal downloading. I didn’t have much, and I got rid of what I had. The idea of teaching lessons on file sharing and illegal downloading wasn’t really a priority at the time, though crackdowns were happening more and more.

However, it’s a different time and age now. Creator’s rights and copyright are more visible on the news than they were back then. Lessons for teaching about illegal downloading and file sharing are more abundant than ever, yet when it comes to digital citizenship, we focus more on research tactics and plagiarism. While key components, they tend to overshadow the other components.

If we fail to teach all components of Digital Citizenship, we are going to continue to have high school graduates participating in illegal file sharing and downloading. As with other things, they feel as though they are invincible and won’t be caught. To them, it’s not about stealing money from the artist, or paying them for creating their work. It’s about having something for free just because they can, or because they feel justified in doing so due to other bills. Why pay for a good when it can be gotten for free? Stealing music isn’t put on the same shelf as stealing from a store, even though stealing a digital copy of a CD is still giving you the same content as if you’d stolen the CD from the store.

If you’re looking for some sources to begin teaching this component of Digital Citizenship, try checking out:

– Netsmartz.org
– Commonsensemedia.org

Change will take time, but it must be made clear to students at a young age that downloading music illegally and filesharing are not OK and never will be considered such.

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