The students who fill our classrooms are true digital natives. They have been raised in a world that relies so heavily on smart devices that it is hard to imagine life without them.
At the same time, technology has become an essential learning tool in every Utica Community Schools classroom. Each day, our students use interactive whiteboards, iPads, smart phones, laptops and other devices to access information and learn in exciting new ways.
Enjoying the many benefits of technology also requires our students to learn and practice digital responsibility. As growing numbers of younger children acquire their own personal devices and establish one-to-one connections with individuals online, Internet safety concerns are on the rise.
According to “Digital Life: Our Kids’ Connected Culture” (Common Sense Media, 2012), the average 8- to 18-year-old spends more than seven hours a day online – texting and socializing, watching videos, playing games and listening to music. Experts from Common Sense Media, one of the district’s educational partners, believe children may not always make a distinction between the real world and the virtual one, at times with unintended consequences.
As youngsters become increasingly skilled in using digital media, it is essential for them to also understand that once their words, photos or videos are launched on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, etc. they are there for all to see – maybe forever. A momentary lapse in judgment can lead to damaged reputations, ruined friendships, even lost employment or legal action.
Utica Community Schools has made the commitment that, as we introduce ever more advanced technology to provide our students with world-class learning, we will also focus on teaching them responsible digital citizenship and cyberspace safety. It is an effort that can succeed only with support from parents and the community.
Most people agree that technology is an amazing learning and communication tool. But as with any powerful tool, youngsters must be taught how to use it appropriately. Avoiding cyber-bullying, practicing online safety, managing time spent using devices and other important issues must be openly discussed with our young people – not only in school but at home.
To advance this dialogue, Utica Community Schools will begin piloting developmentally and age-appropriate digital citizenship concepts in some of its elementary and junior high schools this semester.
Parents are also encouraged to find out what educators and families across the county are doing to promote online learning and safety awareness.
In Utica Community Schools we believe that educating our children and keeping them safe is a responsibility shared by school, home and community. We look forward to continuing that vital partnership as we prepare today’s digital natives for leadership in tomorrow’s global society.
Below are articles that I recommend for UCS parents to learn more how we can work together to promote good digital citizenship:
Dr. Christine Johns
Utica Community Schools