By: Holly Gerla
Charles Wright Academy’s academic technology coordinator and digital citizenship co-teacher Holly Gerla discusses the navigation of raising responsible citizens of our “digital village” and invites South Sound parents to CWA’s annual Parenting In A Digital World workshop in April.
Plenty. How do we keep up with all of it? Well, at school we talk about it. A lot. “Digital citizenship” is a concept that we begin teaching and developing in first grade at Charles Wright Academy. By third grade, it is a regular part of the curriculum during technology class, and we are practicing what it means to be a good digital citizen with just about every project we undertake. In ninth grade, it has its very own class, required for all students as part of the freshman seminar. So what does it mean, exactly?
We define digital citizenship as using technology “safely, critically, responsibly, appropriately, and productively” or SCRAP for short. Of course, safety means something very different at a young age than it does by the time a student reaches high school, but that is why we return to this definition over and over—to show how it applies to our behavior and choices at various times throughout our youth and adolescence as we make our way to adulthood. And though technology itself evolves and changes so very rapidly, we don’t necessarily need to know everything about the latest gadget, device, app, game, or software program to be thoughtful observers, contributors, and participants in the digital world. The concepts of SCRAP apply everywhere, all the time. When it comes to kids and technology, their easy access to resources and information both good and bad, and the near constant connectedness to devices, adults have a lot of concerns. Are these concerns legitimate? According to your kids, yes. In a survey Ms. Riches and I conduct at the beginning of each new trimester, we ask students, “What do you think parents/adults are most concerned about when it comes to young people, social media, and technology?” Their answers range from looking at inappropriate content to cyberbullying to giving away too much personal information or posting too many selfies. But they don’t just think you are concerned about those things. They are as well, with a few even going so far as to say things like, “parents need to keep a steady watch over their kids to make sure they do not make the wrong choices and to help them if they do.”
Our kids have a lot to say! You can join the conversation with them (or start your own) by putting your own social media skills to the test and checking out the many links shared below. If you’d like to read more kid perspectives (get it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak) please visit their class blog. The ninth grade digital citizenship class showcases student voices on many current issues like bullying, body image, plagiarism, copyright, privacy, security, video games, stereotypes, and a wide variety of media messages and their impact. In addition to their research and writing, our students practice and model civil discourse online by leaving comments for each other and inviting readers from around the world to our site to participate in these important conversations. Ms Riches and I also share current events, research, and thought-provoking articles through our class Twitter feed, and through a series of boards on Pinterest. We invite you to follow along and stay in the know!
I’d like to also invite you to a special event Charles Wright hosts for families every spring. As stated in an article in the Washington Post last September, “We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything” It’s important that we keep ourselves educated! Please join me, Middle School Librarian Sam Harris, and certified parent coach Emily McMason of Evolving Parents for our annual Parenting In A Digital World workshop. Find out about the hot topics of the moment, learn about current research and trends in the realm of kids and technology, and ask us your questions, share your experiences and advice, and participate in our “digital village” as we raise and educate our students together.
While Sam and I regularly talk with students about their lives online and their digital behavior, Emily’s expertise and training will help us as parents when we get into more sensitive interpersonal discussions with our kids about privacy, identity, boundaries, difficulties they may encounter online, good decision making, and helpful parenting advice that invites kids to share more with us, not less. Whether they tell you or not, kids still look to the adults in their lives for guidance, especially when it comes to deciding what is appropriate or not. Your voice really matters! This event is open to our entire campus, as well as the public. Don’t miss it! For more information about our work, or to review topics covered in the past, please visit our blog ethics4adigitalworld.org, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter @ethics4ADW.