Kids and teens today are using the immense power of digital media to explore, connect, create and learn in ways never before imagined. With this power, young people have extraordinary opportunities, and yet they face potential pitfalls, too. Meanwhile, schools are dealing with the associated ramifications — such as cyberbullying, digital cheating, and safety and security concerns. These issues underscore the need for students to learn — and for teachers to teach — digital literacy and citizenship skills.
Kids have never had as much access to the internet and mobile technologies at home and school as they do today. We must recognize that media and technology have become commonplace in all areas of our lives. In our classrooms, students must learn how to safely, ethically, responsibly and effectively use media and technology resources. Schools can play a critical role by educating, empowering and engaging children with the best practices around technology use.
While media and technology have great promise for learning, young people need support and education to learn how to make sound judgments when navigating the digital world. School administrators and educators are now faced with new and at times overwhelming challenges, such as those related to privacy, digital footprints, cyberbullying, and sexting. Policymakers around the country are seeking legislative solutions.
In 2016, Washington championed the nation’s first comprehensive digital citizenship and media literacy legislation. The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, calls on the state Office of Public Instruction to develop and distribute a list of digital citizenship and media literacy best practices and recommendations to schools. It uses a state advisory committee that includes researchers, administrators, educators and others to review digital citizenship and media literacy curricula and policy. Other states are taking notice.
Policymakers in Olympia have passed a follow-up bill, again led by Sen. Liias, that will continue to position Washington as a pioneer in this area of education. The legislation calls for the continued development of resources for educators in digital citizenship and media literacy.
Common Sense Kids Action has been a leading resource for policymakers, school administrators, educators, and parents interested in learning additional ways to help kids thrive in a world driven by media and technology. We believe good online behavior mimics good offline behavior and that there is no differentiating between the two when it comes to safety, responsibility and respect. We applaud Washington’s leaders for standing up for kids and are very pleased that others around the country are following The Evergreen State’s lead.
James P. Steyer is the founder and CEO of Common Sense Kids Action.