If you’re a parent, you probably have a good idea of the classes your child is in at school each day, and even people without kids at home will remember their own school years. Reading skills, spelling tests, math classes, history, and maybe even biology and ecology make up the curriculum of your average K-12 school day. But what would you think about about classes in privacy, cyberbullying, impulse control, and online etiquette? Many schools have started debating whether they should begin including lessons in how to use modern technology, and that’s gone beyond the usual keyboarding and coding techniques. Today, teachers are faced with issues like in-class Twitter-based fights, instead of quarrels on the playground or in the cafeteria. Both students and educators have a lot to learn, and to teach, when it comes to the problems associated with social media.
Kids are getting connected online at younger and younger ages, and generally need help understanding both the short-term and long-term consequences of what they do in the virtual world. We’ve all heard the stories of older teens posting embarrassing pictures of other students at parties, and what was once a quickly-forgotten incident can get turned into a permanent and troubling reminder. If kids don’t think about the fact that once something is published on line, it’s hard to get rid of, they may end up harming themselves as well as their friends, and creating difficulties when it comes to future goals like university scholarships and even entry-level jobs. After all, if there’s a set of photos out there of a 17-year-old acting in a very irresponsible way, will a prospective employer think that the now 18-year-old job applicant will really be responsible at work?
While it’s important to make sure that new technology doesn’t replace old and necessary skills like proper spelling and research techniques, students – and adults – should also pay attention to new skills needed to successfully use the computer tools that are now part of everyday life.
For free materials you can provide to children to help them learn about online safety and privacy, go to the Common Sense Media website.