Because of the pressures of social media, growing up these days can bring terrifying pitfalls which could ruin a young person’s life. These include receiving mean and harassing personal attacks; being impersonated or hacked; being outed, shamed, or humiliated; feeling smothered by someone else’s digital communication; and feeling pressured to comply with requests for intimate photos.
There are a couple of apps in particular which can lead to problems. One is Zeoob.com, which allows users to create fake accounts to “prank your friends.” Another is Likee (formerly LIKE Video), which is aimed at middle school students and encourages users to perform “challenges” (e.g. belly dancing) which could make them appear ridiculous.
Discussing this in his edWeb.net webinar “How Digital Stressors Impact Student Learning,” Jamie Nunez of Common Sense Education said that young people facing these problems often do not want to discuss them with adults because they fear being judged or reprimanded. Instead, they tend to turn to their peers for help.
Unfortunately, by the time a problem occurs, the damage is done and it’s very hard if not impossible to undo. In addition, studies show that when online relationships are forbidden at home, this only tends to result in negative behavior.
Therefore, said Nunez, the answer lies in values education — in building empathy for others and emotional resilience. He also stressed the importance of teaching how to have online relationships that are effective.
To address this, Common Sense Education offers a new series of free digital citizenship lessons for grades K-12. These videos and slide shows range from cartoons for the earliest grades to interviews with peer-aged students for higher grades. Each video comes with a downloadable lesson plan. Topics include
- Media Balance & Well-Being
- Privacy & Security
- Digital Footprint & identity
- Relationships & Communication
- Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech
- News & Media Literacy
Each topic is covered by a series of lessons that are grade-appropriate. For example, the “Relationships & Communication” topic has a “Media Balance is Important” cartoon for kindergarteners, a “Keeping Games Fun and Friendly” video for 4th graders, and a ‘Chatting and Red Flags” presentation for 9th graders.
Here are some of the mindsets encouraged by the lessons:
- We find balance in our digital lives
- We care about everyone’s privacy
- We define who we are
- We know the power of words and actions
- We are kind and courageous
- We are critical thinkers and creators
The lessons,” said Nunez, “are designed to empower kids from a place of agency — to instill kind and courageous habits.”
You can follow Nunez on Twitter at @planetsenses and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.