Elementary School Students Learn to Become Good "Digital Citizens"

Our five Core Values are very important to all of us at Churchill. As our social world expands to include digital communication, it is increasingly important to provide our students with the tools and understanding to demonstrate integrity, responsibility, respect and kindness when using the internet. We have the opportunity to help our children face the challenges of navigating cyberspace in our weekly small group “Health and Human Relationships” sessions.
Every student at Churchill participates in a small HHR group session once a week with five other classmates. During this time, one of our psychologists or social workers addresses age-appropriate topics of social-emotional development, offering opportunities to learn and practice effective strategies to manage “tricky” situations. And in today’s world, using social media, “surfing the web”, and even playing games on a public server pose some of the trickiest situations our youngsters will confront. Our digital world is constantly expanding and changing. As we work on supporting our students’ developing social skills, we must teach them how to problem-solve and use good judgment to enable them to safely and appropriately navigate 21st Century communication and information gathering.
So how do we do this with young children? I realized when we first tackled this topic that today’s elementary school generation knows much more about the internet, starts using devices from a very early age, and is exposed to mature material far more than I could have imagined. This eye opening experience drove home the urgent need to start the conversation early, focusing on information sharing/privacy, “netiquette” (digital etiquette), and digital footprint, in other words, safety, respect and responsibility (those Core Values keep coming up)!
Using hands-on activities, videos and role-playing of hypothetical scenarios, we make decisions about what and how much information can be shared with only those closest to us, people we know, or complete strangers. We discuss the meaning and impact of cyberbullying, and practice responding to a friend in supportive ways.
We demonstrate how the pictures and messages that are posted online remain in cyberspace, can be passed on to others, and can have unpleasant consequences many years later. The words “stop and think” that my students are so used to hearing me say have been expanded to include “think before you post”.
We are starting this conversation, and constantly revisiting it throughout the year, and as the students move on to Middle School and High School. Please help us keep the conversation going at home. Common Sense Media is a wonderful resource for additional information. Also check out the “Net Cetera” booklet, available online.
Linda Price, M.S., N.C.S.P.
Psychology Department Head
The Churchill School and Center