HF-L Digital Citizenship Newsletter

November/December 2018: Self-Image and Identity

Self-Image and Identity

Erik Erikson’s view of identity is as follows: identity enables one to move with purpose and direction in life and with a sense of inner sameness and continuity over time and place. It is both biological and psychological, and it intersects with the opportunities/supports provided in one's social context (Kroger, 2017 - see the link below!).

Whew! That was a lot to take in. Let's break it down a bit...

  • People of all ages are working on identifying whom they are as a person - personally, socially, creatively, etc. It helps us to feel comfortable with ourselves and confident around others as we move through life.
  • Beyond identifying ourselves for the sake of our own understanding, we also begin to express our individuality externally - for others to see and understand.
  • We can see children begin to experiment with this in a few ways. Children express themselves by picking out their clothes, experimenting with make up, trying new hairstyles, associating with different friend groups, participating in team and/or school events, seeking independence from parents, etc.
  • The more-social aspects (especially seeking and finding acceptance) are particularly important for school-age students as they begin to develop their identities.
  • While this is extremely normal and developmentally appropriate, it sure can be scary for parents!
As our children are increasingly establishing an online presence, they begin to create an online identity that we need to consider as well. How are they trying to simultaneously find themselves AND fit in with their peers?

Popular ways that students portray themselves and connect with others using technology:

  • Choosing profile pictures
  • Texting friends/messaging through apps and games
  • Creating avatars
  • Sharing their thoughts and feelings on social media
  • Posting items that imply a certain status or state of emotion
  • Taking "Selfies"*
  • Leaving comments on another person's post or page

Education regarding self-expression, digital footprints**, and decision-making, as well as role modeling proper online etiquette are especially important in helping our children to understand the long-term ramifications that their posts can have while still supporting self-expression.

*Selfies: A picture that is taken by the individual in the photo and is typically shared on social media.

**Digital Footprint: Information about users of social media that exists on the internet as a result of their online activity.

What might YOUR OWN digital footprint look like?

How do we address all of this?


Behavioral milestones related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • Telling jokes and playing with language
  • Understanding right from wrong
  • Making friends.

Digital Citizenship learning targets related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • I can use kind, appropriate words online
  • I can ask for permission before taking photos or videos of others
  • I can keep my personal information safe online


Behavioral milestones related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • Begin to use social media to get news and form opinions
  • Increasing interest in spending time with friends
  • Develop a better sense of responsibility

Digital Citizenship learning targets related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • I can communicate appropriately and be kind to others in my online community
  • I can recognize and apply strategies when I encounter a cyberbullying situation
  • I can accept that other digital citizens may have different opinions


Behavioral milestones related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • Start to question things and not taking everything for face value
  • Think about how current actions affect the future
  • Possibly bowing to peer pressure

Digital Citizenship learning targets related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • I can understand the potential future impact of my digital footprint
  • I can verify the identities of others online and determine if it is appropriate to communicate with them
  • I can recognize the harmful impacts of cyberbullying on others and take actions to combat cyberbullying

High School:

Behavioral milestones related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • Develop more intimate relationships
  • Spend less time with parents and more time with friends
  • Begin to see the impact of interactions online on future

Digital Citizenship learning targets related to Self-Image and Identity:

  • I can explain how my "digital life" can present benefits and risks to my health and relationships
  • I can associate with others online who exhibit good digital citizenship and have my best interest in mind.
  • I can explain how my "digital life" can present benefits and risks to my health and relationships

Discussion Starters

Social Media is constantly changing. Talk to your children about what platforms they are using and how they are identifying themselves.

Popular Sites:

  • Instagram (including "Finstas"*)
  • SnapChat
  • YouTube
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Musical.ly

*"Finsta" is an abbreviation for a Fake Instagram account. It is a secondary/alternate account used by an Instagram user and is intended to be more-private. This allows a person to create a more-public persona on one account and share more-personal/private posts on another.

Who do YOU want to be?

Discussions about morals and character traits help students to determine the kind of person they might like to be. Defining positive character traits (such as the ones below) and discussing how they look in hypothetical situations (both in face-to-face interactions and technology-based interactions) can help students understand the expectations of good citizens AND digital citizens.
Big picture

Stay tuned for future Digital Citizenship newsletters!

The theme for the January issue is "Cyberbullying and Digital Drama."