Why Parents and Educators Should Work Together to Teach Digital Citizenship

August 07, 2012
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Parents and Families

We’re all overwhelmed with how to prepare our kids to be citizens of a future world we can’t even imagine yet. Some advocates say the most important thing adults today can do for the next generation is to work in partnership with other parents and teachers to create a village of support when it comes to digital technology use.

Blogging at the Washington Post’s “The Answer Sheet,” Lynette Owens, director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families division, says she’s seen too many parents buying expensive devices for their kids [smartphones] without giving them any guidance on how to use it safely and responsibly.

Owens is also a parent who sees her children’s school’s transition to a 1:1 laptop program as an opportune moment to engage parents in teaching digital literacy. We certainly agree and are working with districts across the country to do just that using our Parent Media and Technology Education Program. We’ve developed discussion guides, tip sheets and presentations made to help empower parents with guidance and tips on online safety and to reinforce classroom learning with in-home messages.

For a great example you can read about the pioneering work going on in Maine where they have a statewide 1:1 laptop program and have partnered with us to provide digital literacy curriculum to students as well as to parents and the larger community.

Owens says parents she knows are often “eager to learn how to do this, but lack the knowledge of where to turn for help.”

Owens has complied these helpful guidelines for districts that want to involve parents in their digital literacy and citizenship education efforts. And as she points out, we have lots of resources here at Common Sense Media that can help.

Owens recommends districts:

1. Encourage parent communities, like the PTA, to begin the discussion about safe and responsible online use.

2. Communicate to these parent communities about how they are using technology in the classroom, and at each grade level. Make it part of open house and parent-teacher night.

3. Be clear with parents how the school’s code of conduct and Acceptable Use Policies enforce appropriate online behavior.

4. Be creative with suggestions on how parents and students can use technology together.

5. Recognize the positive uses of technology both formally and informally. Owens suggests creating a program for parents or rewarding students for responsible online behavior.

Owens stressed the importance of digital literacy education across all ages, as well as the necessary joint effort between parents, students, and teachers to reinforce positive behavior online.

“Technology can be intimidating to those of us who were introduced to it later in life.  The job of teaching kids how to use it appropriately can feel daunting when often times they seem better at it than we do,” Owens said. “But we cannot sidestep our obligation to make technology a tool our kids use safely and responsibly. […] It just takes a willingness to embrace what is already here, and a little courage to take the first step.”

Read the full post here. And browse our parent education materials here.