October was Cyber Awareness Month and organizations such as the Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe awareness campaign, Common Sense Media and Media Smarts have put together different educational activities and awareness campaigns to help students navigate not just Cybersecurity topics but Digital Literacy topics that resonate with the needs of youth.
Digital Literacy encompasses so many topics that should be discussed beyond the classroom. As a parent of two children, in Grades 7 and 9, I recognize how important it is to have open conversations with them about their use of technology in their daily lives. Having access to gaming platforms, phones, tablets, laptops, and other wifi enabled devices all have challenges and situations where your children need to make smart, informed choices about how they present themselves while online and how they react to other people's behaviours online. It’s a good idea at home to discuss expectations of where and how long they can use their devices to ensure they are getting a good night’s sleep. Talking about what social media tools they are using and making sure they are creating a positive online presence will help them learn to regulate their comments and posts. We all check in on our children to see how school is going, but we should be checking in to see how their technology use is influencing their mental health.
One problem that most parents are encountering is determining when it is the right age to have different conversations with their children regarding digital literacy. When talking to my own children about a topic such as bullying and Pink Shirt Day, I would start a parallel conversation about how it’s just as inappropriate to treat someone badly online as it is face-to-face. When talking to my children about being a positive role model for their peers, I would create a parallel conversation about having a positive interaction through an online discussion tool. Relating online use with acceptable social norms is the easiest way for our children to realize that connecting online with people is no different than how we connect with people face-to-face. No matter when you allow them to use online social media platforms, social media platforms are how our children are connecting with their friends and these tools will change over time but they will be in their lives for many years to come.
Common Sense Media has many resources that parents can use to have open conversations with their children. Common Sense Media has made their website easy for parents to use and read articles based on age, topics or platform. It’s not easy for parents to know all of the newest technology or research, but this website is designed for families and it is a great resource.
Media Smarts has some great parent resources that are sorted by topics. Many of their tip sheets and support articles focus on mental health and well-being, which is a topic that I feel that more parents should be talking to their children about. I would recommend looking at the Digital Health resources that Media Smarts provides as they do include research-based suggestions.
If you would like to see what was shared with our Senior School students over the last two weeks, please take a look at these videos. These are good conversation starters to connect with your children to see what their thoughts are on different digital literacy topics.
Appropriate Amounts of Screen Time (presented by Common Sense Media)
Are you Living an Insta Lie? How does Social Media influence you and what you post? (presented by Common Sense Media)
What is the Appropriate Age to Start Social Media? (presented by Common Sense Media)
What is Cyberbullying and Online Disinhibition Effect? (presented by Common Sense Media)
Media Minutes: Media have Social and Political Influences - Critically Analyzing and Evaluating Media (presented by Media Smart)
My Voice is Larger than Hate - Making and Using Media to Express Yourself and Participate in youy Communities (presented by Media Smarts)
Reading Like a Scientist Reality Check - Safely and Ethically Finding and Navigating Media (presented by Media Smarts)
Break the Fake - Finding out if Online Content is Accurate and Reliable (presented by Media Smarts)
Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that focuses on improving the lives of all kids and families by providing trustworthy information, education and the independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century.
Media Smarts is a Canadian non-profit organization that focuses on enabling children and youth to have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens.
Contributed by Ms. Mosher, Senior School Technology Leader and Mathematics Teacher