Digital citizenship classes at Centerville: Are they working?

Image from Author.

Tik Tok, Youtube, and Instagram are just a couple of the social media sites that today’s children have easy access to. It is common knowledge that the newest generation, dubbed “Gen Alpha,” is heavily dependent on these apps, more so than any previous generation. This dependency can have disastrous effects on the safety and wellbeing of these children. Coupled with the relatively unregulated state of the internet, many now also deal with cyber bullying, data leaks, and addiction. To address this problem, Centerville Middle School has officially introduced the Digital Citizenship class as a required course for 6th graders, starting this quarter. 

The digital citizenship curriculum itself is provided by an organization called Common Sense. According to Common Sense’s website, the organization aims to teach students about six core topics: “Media Balance and Wellbeing, Privacy and Security, Digital Footprint and Identity, Relationships and Communication, Cyberbullying and Hate Speech, and News and Media Literacy.” 

The materials provided to teachers by the curriculum include a slideshow, video, and quiz for every one of the six topics. However, teachers are allowed to add to the curriculum, if they wish to do so. Ms. Eglington, a digital citizenship teacher at Centerville, notes that, “I usually give them various worksheets about the topics outlined in the curriculum and give the students hypothetical situations where they come up with responses.” She also assigns them additional projects after a topic is completed. So far, her students have done posters on digital footprints and digital citizenship, as well as skits and email-writing practice assignments. 

Despite the program supposedly addressing the concerns of children being online, has the curriculum actually had a positive impact on students? Manvi Singh, a junior at Washington High School, has a younger sister who attends the program. When asked if she’s seen improvement in her sister, her answer is a resounding yes. “I feel like my sister is significantly more aware about the dangers and opportunities the internet hosts,” she explains. “Over the past month, my sister has learned to avoid spam links and emails, something she was quite susceptible to earlier. She’s also begun to understand cyber security and social media risks better, and has actually been a lot more mindful about the type of content she posts.”

Overall, the program is fulfilling its purpose, but that doesn’t mean it comes without its flaws. For one, the curriculum isn’t very interactive, and mostly relies on presenting information through slideshows and videos. While this is sufficient for relaying the facts, the curriculum should also be supplemented with interactive activities to ensure the information sticks. Ms. Eglinton notes, “The base curriculum given to us by Common Sense has been a little boring, so as a result, most teachers had to add projects to make things a little more interesting.” A second flaw is the lack of parental involvement within the curriculum. Singh notes that schools shouldn’t be the only place where students learn about proper technology use, and adds that “It’s just as important for parents to review and guide their child, and make sure content is relatively safe.” According to Singh, although schools may teach students the basics, it’s up to both the child and the adults in their life to actually help them put them to practice, and having parents involved in the curriculum could aid in this process. 

Overall, the addition of a digital citizenship course in middle schools is a step in the right direction to ensure that the younger generation can be mindful online. With the introduction of such programs and further improvement to existing ones, we can ensure that the future generation can find a healthy balance between real life and online.

Viswatha Pamidipati is a junior at Washington High School. She was born and raised in Wisconsin, and moved to Fremont when she was 12. She is a first year reporter for The Hatchet who is interested in discussing topics revolving around the local community and social issues, as well as the environment. In her free time, she loves to draw, bake, read, cook, and spend time with her family. She hopes to go into a career in STEM.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *