It’s heartening to see progress. Even just five years ago, the underlying messages about digital media and kids were still mostly fear-based. School officials were in favor of across-the-board technology bans, and the major concern of education policymakers was to protect children from viewing explicit content online.
Almost 13 years after the Children’s Internet Protection Act was put into place, digital media means something almost entirely different than it did back in 2000. More importantly, digital media education has shifted from fearing what’s online and shielding children from it, to understanding the important resources it has to offer and providing today’s youth with the tools to navigate that world safely.
This positive paradigm shift in digital education has taken hold in schools across the country. Several schools in New York City in particular, have been models of progressive thinking in this area. West Side Collaborative Middle School in Manhattan, for example, where educators are using our Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum, recently participated in our first ever Digital Citizenship Day on Oct. 1 supported in part by the New York City Department of Education.
We held a town hall meeting at LaGuardia High School, where MTV’s Sway moderated a powerful discussion among New York City teens about the challenges and opportunities of growing up online. And teachers, education policymakers, and New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott also gathered at West Side Collaborative to celebrate the day.
“When I was a student, we talked about the responsibility of being a proper citizen…,” Walcott told a group of educators. “Today, in the 21st century, we have a responsibility in defining citizenship a little differently.”
It appears policymakers are listening, and are beginning to make more progressive changes to amplify digital media education. Metro Focus writer Georgia Kral reported that, earlier this fall, New Jersey Assemblyman Angel Fuentes introduced legislation that mandates social media training for students in grades 6-8. Legislation like this is integral at a time when, according to our research, 90 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 have used some form of social media.
Kral also reported that the Federal Trade Commission is working on a massive overhaul that would change the kinds of information children’s websites collect in order to prevent companies from identifying or locating individual children. This all comes at a time when the Federal Communications Commission is still working on an elite “digital literacy corps” that would train students, parents, educators and the general public on how to safely use digital media.
The New York City Department of Education recently instituted a massive overhaul, as well, revamping its social media policy to direct teachers on how they should interact with their students in online forums. West Side Collaborative Middle School principal Jeanne Rotunda told Gotham Schools writer Rachel Cromidas that before the school began training students on digital literacy, students were making “unwise choices with digital media” both in and out of school.
“We’ve seen an incredible decrease in that. Now, it’s a part of our world. All the teachers are trained in it and involved in doing it,” she said.
West Side Collaborative Middle School is just one of 615 New York City schools who have registered to use our free online curriculum, several of whom participated in the Digital Citizenship Day events.
“We have a responsibility to collectively come together to talk about to educate our students—have our students educate us—but, most importantly, come up with a plan to make sure we interact [online] in a very positive and constructive way,” said Chancellor Walcott before the town hall discussion, “and Common Sense Media has provided an opportunity for us to do that.”