The technology we have available to us today and the speed to which we can access information and then proceed to reshare it, retweet it, repost it, reblog it, etcetera, is truly astonishing and often takes less to time to re-something it than to process it in the first place. Students in the digital world of today see all of the Internet and its components as theirs to judge, tweak, use, and trash. Not because they don’t respect the content, but because they largely behave as if existence warrants allowance. After all, if the picture or information is ‘out there’ the owner must want it to be publicly consumed and used, right? Wrong.

After countless interactions with middle school students, the trend I largely see regarding the use of technology is that if it can be done then the only reason it shouldn’t be done is if there are potentially negative consequences that will come back on them personally. Otherwise, the content and the unlawful use of it is fair game. Since much of illegal use of content is largely unmonitored or checked, students see themselves as too far removed from actual repercussions. I more often hear the refrain,”If they didn’t want anyone to [insert verb here] it, they shouldn’t have put it out there” rather than one of consideration to the feelings or rights of the content owner.

Students must be taught about what copyright is and how fair use applies. They need direct instruction in the moral obligation they have as digital citizens to consider the source of the information and content they consume. If we, as educators, are not teaching them about such things, then how can we hold them accountable or expect for them to hold themselves accountable? We must instruct them in how to use technology legally so they can learn to interact with the Internet and other technology with integrity.