Some time ago I chatted with a parent about the concept of copyright. Both of us were concerned that digital kids understand very little about intellectual property. The free-for-all digital information climate ensures that children have considerable ease accessing information and considerable difficulty comprehending what belongs to whom. Given this easy access parents and educators need to spend time helping children understand the basics.
Copyright laws are arcane, and even a bit crazy, but it’s critical to teach kids that protecting the intellectual property of others is a necessary 21st Century skill. With your child take the Copyright Challenge quiz at Copyright for Kids to see how much you know. When you finish the quiz check out these frequently asked questions about copyright.
Originality matters when digital children write and learn, but many 21st Century students have considerable difficulty understanding what the idea of original content really means.
Check out How the Internet Affects PlagiarismatKQED Mindshift, a blog post that describes how plagiarism is evolving in today’s digital world. According to the article, students today do less looking for “unoriginal content” at sites that sell papers or other pre-written documents (compared to the past), and they use lots more content from the almost unlimited digital resources that are available on the Internet.
When I was in what we used to call junior high, working on my first bona-fide school research projects, mired down with things to read, and wishing to be finished, my father reminded me over and over again, “… you cannot attribute too much, only too little.” Even now, years later, with only a few words written on a page, I start thinking about Dad’s attribution credo.
Every parent of digital kids needs to share Dad’s strategy whenever children are working on school projects and papers. It is way too easy, in this age of Google, Wikipedia, and easy instant access to digitized scholarly articles, to write about another person’s ideas without giving credit.
In an age of instant cut and paste, copying the words or ideas of others is easy, so today many students ignore the need to credit sources. According to an August 1, 2010, New York Times article, Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age, many digital natives have difficulty understanding the concepts of attribution, intellectual property, and copyright. Moreover, the article points out that, with so much public conversation and criticism about Wikipedia, many young writers believe that crediting the online encyclopedia is unnecessary.
The Times article is a helpful back-to-school read, because it clarifies a critical issue confronting students — one that affects the quality of their work. By addressing the need to cite sources and maintain personal integrity, parents provide solid support for their children, and they help children avoid problems that arise when Internet sources in assignments without attribution. Family conversations need to occur early and often, building a child’s respect for digital citizenship.