San Francisco-based nonprofit org Common Sense Media has launched the first revamp of its digital citizenship curriculum in nearly 10 years, to address issues of online safety for teachers, parents and children.
Some of the old concerns that have plagued parents and teachers—including short attention spans, access to inappropriate online content and the rise of online hate speech—resurfaced in recent years, says Common Sense’s senior director of education programs Kelly Mendoza. After reports of teen suicides, addictions and mental illness driven by social media and the digital landscape came to light, the org was motivated to revamp its resources, which haven’t changed since 2010. Created in collaboration with Harvard Graduate School’s research center Project Zero, which helped develop the original program, the updates were made to reflect issues that thousands of educators and parents identified as top concerns for them, says Mendoza.
Piloted in schools before being released, the new resources comes with lessons, activities and content for teachers and parents to help students (and themselves) think critically and develop positive habits around the use of information technology and social media. The updated curriculum was released Monday and is free for everyone to access.
Its curriculum was originally aimed at middle-graders and focused heavily on cyberbullying. The revamp expands on the work of the first version, with resources for kids from kindergarten to high school.
Mendoza also hopes kids content producers hop on the program to see how the content targets difficult topics in an age-appropriate manner.
“Younger kids [kindergarten to grade two] like songs, motion and poetry and we found including that in our videos was a very effective way to keep them engaged when teaching them about these topics,” Mendoza says. “Content creators can look at our videos and see that we used animated characters and music to communicate and engage with young students.”
To help expand the new resources to more parents and educators the organization is set to launch a new website during digital citizenship week (October 14 to 19), focused on providing educators and parents with ideas on how to talk about issues of online safety with kids, Mendoza says.
“Parents, teachers and industry professional don’t need to be experts in what tech kids are using or how they’re using it to know what topics people want to see addressed in media, and on ways to engage kids on the topics,” says Mendoza.