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Educators: Don't Just Check the Box When Teaching Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship is a hot topic in both the education world and general society of late…and rightly so. It’s rare for a day to pass and you not hear about a celebrity, athlete or politician’s inappropriate or insulting social media use. And if these are supposed to be our children’s role models, we’re in trouble. I’m a high school tennis coach, so I see the downward side of social media abuse on an almost daily basis. It’s unfortunate and discouraging.

It’s extremely fortunate and encouraging, on the other hand, to know there’s a movement happening that’s centered on getting children the digital literacy and citizenship education they desperately need at the middle school level, so they’re informed and equipped with the tools to be prepared for their digital lives in a high school setting. Not only is there a movement addressing this problem—such as the upcoming Digital Citizenship Summit at Twitter headquarters and Media Literacy Week in the U.S. and Canada—but there are solutions currently offered that every school should adopt in some capacity. It’s vital to equip students with the skills to become ethical, knowledgeable and competent digital citizens.

There’s legislative “action” occurring in 15 U.S. states, according to Media Literacy Now—providers of policy and advocacy information, expertise, and resources to develop state laws to implement media literacy education in schools.

I spend lots of time talking to schools across the country, many from states that have passed or are in the process of passing legislation to require teaching media literacy. Unfortunately I've found many schools are simply “checking the box” when filling the requirement to teach these necessary subjects.

So much more can and needs to be done. It’s not a one hour every three months, or once at the beginning of the school year type problem to fix. Students learn best when an educational foundation is set early on, then building on that foundation month-to-month, year-to-year. Putting aside one hour per week to teach kids digital citizenship might not be easy, but it’s an investment that I argue cannot be overlooked.

At Cyber Civics we like to say, “It takes a village to raise an ethical and competent digital citizen.” This goes to the point that it doesn’t come easy to get the message across to kids that being a good and honorable person or ”citizen” now involves being ethical, kind and thoughtful in a digital setting as well. It doesn’t come easy, so every educator should be doing their best to put the tools in place to address this topic….Don’t be a box-checker!

An easy way for educators to assure they’re not simply checking box, is to utilize the Cyber Civics program. This turnkey, comprehensive in-classroom program meets the urgent and growing demand to equip students with essential digital life skills. Lessons and resources are delivered to teachers online through their own Cyber Civics account. Lessons are easy to teach and can be customized to fit a school’s specific needs. My favorite part of the program is that the curriculum was designed in a classroom and lessons are continuously updated and refined by practicing in-classroom teachers. It creates an inquiry-based environment transforming students from digital consumers to digital producers and from digital learners to digital leaders. Lessons from the curriculum don’t just address skills to use online, but they are everyday skills that relate to kids everyday lives.

Cyber Civics works best and is most effective when schools use all three years of the curriculum— beginning in 6th grade with Digital Citizenship, 7th grade with Information Literacy and ending in 8th grade with Media Literacy for Positive Participation. Taking into consideration that many schools can’t make the full commitment to such a comprehensive program (yet!), there is also a Mini course

that still goes beyond “checking the box”.

So let’s go educators! Join the movement and recognize this is a topic that needs immediate action on our part. Get ahead of the legislative process and be the example setter! Whether you choose Cyber Civics or another solution, it’s fun and exciting to teach students these lessons and I promise they will thank you later for equipping them with these highly important skills.

If you want to see where your state stands with legislation on digital citizenship education, the full list is here:

Peter joins the Cyber Civics team with experience in both Education as well as Marketing. He received a degree in Communication from the University of Portland with an emphasis in Media and Society. Peter has always had a passion for teaching and working with kids. In 2011 he made the switch from the business sector and has been an Educator at Aliso Niguel High School for the past 5 years. He’s also the Head Coach of both the Boys and Girls Tennis Programs. He resides in San Clemente, CA with his wife and young daughter and sees Cyber Civics as “the perfect fit” for his passions and skill sets. Checkmark image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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