Teaching Kids to Use Technology Wisely

In an age where a parent’s first reaction to digital media is fear for the cyber-safety of their children, Common Sense Media is raising another point to consider: how to make kids act responsibly for how they use it.


Since children don’t always relate the cause and effect of their actions – and parents are usually behind the curve on technological matters – CSM has developed a digital curriculum for schools. The overarching tenant of its “rules of the road” is simple: “If you wouldn’t say it offline, don’t say it online.”


It’s the hope of Anne Zehren, board member and former president of CSM, that learning these rules will help reduce bullying, help kids refrain from revealing too much information and stay one step of marketers eager for their personal data.


CSM’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship Initiative targets grades 5-8 and was part of a pilot program in San Francisco and Omaha, Neb. It will fully roll out this fall across the country. For more information, visit commonsensemedia.org.


Why is a digital curriculum needed in schools?


Digital media and technology are evolving at a dizzying pace. Kids require a new set of skills, as well as new codes of conduct to make sure they’re using media and technology responsibly and respectfully. And though parents always have been the first line of defense to keep kids safe and smart, kids tend to know more about this world than adults do.


Describe Common Sense Media’s rules of the road for youth?


Today, our kids create lasting records of their lives whenever they post something online or send someone a text message. In a world where anything can be copied, pasted, altered and distributed almost immediately to a vast, invisible audience, kids have to understand that they hold the key to what kind of reputation they create for themselves. Learning the lessons of safe, smart and responsible digital behavior begins right here, at home, with parents. It’s really a part of parenting today, the same way you teach your kids to look both ways before crossing the street, or how to say “please” and “thank you.”


What are some tips you offer for kids using Facebook?


We really urge parents to take a good 15 to 20 minutes learning about Facebook privacy settings themselves. They can definitely be overwhelming, but the only way you can ensure that your kid is using it wisely is if you know how the settings work yourself. We have tips at Common Sense Media that can make it a bit easier to understand what the privacy settings are all about. Have your teens limit their privacy settings to Only Friends. That’ll restrict who sees your kids’ information, including pictures, videos and applications they use. When filling out their bios, teens can leave fields blank. Your teens don’t need to post their phone numbers or addresses.


– Millicent Skiles
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