Students learn how to be ‘good digital citizens’

As part of its efforts during Catholic Schools Week, Cathedral High School in St. Cloud welcomed speaker Dave Eisenmann, the director of instructional technology and media services at Minnetonka Public Schools, to engage students in his presentation, “Being a Good Digital Citizen.”

Dave Eisenmann

Eisenmann talked with students Feb. 2 about cyberbullying and harassment, sexting, the dangers of pornography and why they need to be cautious about theiruse of online technologies such as Snap-Chat, Instagram and Twitter.

Eisenmann encouraged them to“guard their image” and “protect their future.” Parents and teachers were also invited to attend.

He emphasized the positive aspects of technology, including using it to foster creativity, collaboration with others and communication. He also referenced Matthew 7:12, or the “Golden Rule,” to do unto others as you would have done to you.

“When we are called to treat each other as we would want to be treated, it doesn’t mean that there is an exception to the rule when we are using technology,” he said.

He asked students to consider three words when considering what to post online: empathy, compassion and integrity.

“Imagine if you started using YouTube with empathy, compassion,” he said, “if you started considering what the person on the other end of the video is feeling and whether or not you would want others to share the video if it was you.”

He said that all are called to be people of integrity, doing the right things at all times, whether or not anyone is watching.

“Each of us is only one click, one ‘tweet’ away from losing our integrity. … Be people who use technology with integrity. Be
confident and proud of what you say and have your name or face next to,” he said.

He also offered practical advice such as doing the “grandma test.”

“If your grandma were to grab your phone right now, would she be happy with you? If not, that should be a sign that you are posting things that are not appropriate,” he said.

He hoped his talk gave students the opportunity to stop and think before they share things online.

“I would encourage you to think about your digital footprint, leave a clean footprint, keep healthy content in front of your eyes and pursue technology positively with empathy, compassion and integrity.”

Q&A: Staying safe online

The Visitor asked Dave Eisenmann to share more thoughts through a Q&A. His answers and links to more information are below.

Q. What is the biggest threat families are facing regarding digital technology?

Eisenmann: I think many parents feel they don’t understand technology as well as their kids so they give up trying to keep up.

As parents, we don’t have to know how everything works, but we do need to play an active role in our kids’ lives by frequently discussing their technology use, proactively sharing our values and expectations, and helping them to understand the importance of using technology appropriately and safely.

Q. What is one statistic that people aren’t aware of that might surprise them?

Eisenmann: I have found that less than 10 percent of families put Internet filters on their kids’ smartphones and home WiFi, so their children have access to all sorts of inappropriate content. I recommend Curbi for smartphones:, and Open DNS for WiFi at home:

Filters don’t block everything, and kids may try to find ways around them, but having open and frank conversations with our children about why they should avoid inappropriate content is super important to their future mental health and well-being.

Q. What is the most important issue children face?

Eisenmann: Understanding that digital footprints last forever. All of our Instagram pictures, Tweets, Snapchats, Vine Videos, YouTube uploads, posts, comments, even texts can be saved and last beyond our lifetimes. I encourage them to clean up their footprint and keep a clean digital footprint from here on out in the future.

Q. What is one concrete tip for parents to keep their kids safe online?

Eisenmann: As parents, we need to model healthy, balanced use of technology. We should closely examine our own habits and lives to make sure that we are modeling for children what a healthy balance and use of technology is. In the past I have used the word “techcognition” to describe one’s self awareness of how technology is used. We need to pay attention to how often we are on our own devices, especially around our own children who are watching us and learning from the model we set.

Q. What is one takeaway from your talk that you hope kids will take to heart?

Eisenmann: To keep things positive and think before they digitize anything.More tips for parents are available at:

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.