SFUSD teaching kids about online responsibility

Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner File photoRichard Swerdlow

The other day, I heard an astounding statistic: Children in this country spend more time with media and digital activities than they do with their families or even in school.

Like it or not, I understand how much the digital and online world has become part of our students’ everyday lives. Here in the San Francisco Unified School District, we are adopting tools to take advantage of online educational resources and improving our technology all the time.

But what do we teach our children about Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and whatever else is the next big digital thing kids will be doing?

Taking time to teach online safety

Today is our annual Digital Media Safety Day. Every student, kindergarten to 12th grade, will take time in class to talk about what we call digital citizenship. They will go step-by-step through a unique lesson chosen for their age group to learn things like how to manage their online presence and avoid cyberbullying. We will also cover academic topics such as plagiarism and how to analyze a website for its accuracy.

Let’s face it. Our students, like students nationwide, are using the immense power of the Internet and mobile technologies to explore, connect, create and learn in ways we adults couldn’t have imagined when we were young. But issues do emerge — like spilling too much private information and inadvertently or purposefully damaging reputations — when our kids aren’t prepared with what we call digital literacy and citizenship skills.

Many of our schools teach these important lessons throughout the year. But today, we have asked everybody to talk about it to ensure that we are reaching every single child.

Helping kids learn online citizenship

We have an expert partner to help us navigate all of this, an organization called Common Sense Media that provides us with professionally created teacher and parent resources for free. Common Sense Media is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing trustworthy information and education our kids need to thrive in this ever-changing world of media and technology.

Common Sense’s website, full of free expertise, gives all of us — parents, educators and young people — the power to become knowledgeable and empowered digital citizens.

You can take a look at some of the lessons our kids will be diving into today and some of the lessons you may wish to share with the children in your life at www.commonsensemedia.org.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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