Curriculum to combat serious concerns facing middle schoolers

January 16, 2019 | Common Sense

By the time they’re teenagers in America, 95 percent of children will have their own mobile device and will, on average, spend almost nine hours a day texting, playing games, posting to social media, watching videos, and more. With all this time spent online, tweens and teens are navigating a minefield of challenging issues, from sexting and cyberbullying to fake news and addictive design.

In response, Common Sense today launched the Digital Citizenship Curriculum for grades 6–8, available free to all schools through its flagship Common Sense Education platform. The new, innovative resources were created in collaboration with researchers Carrie James and Emily Weinstein from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and guided by Common Sense’s own research with thousands of educators. Each lesson in the award-winning curriculum takes on the authentic concerns that students face in their connected lives, giving them the skills they need to succeed as digital learners, leaders, and citizens tomorrow.

“We’re in an age where technology and social media are ubiquitous in students’ lives — both in and out of the classroom — so it’s absolutely critical that kids receive digital citizenship instruction to help them manage their increasingly complex online lives,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. “Through our updated curriculum, specifically designed for middle schoolers, we’re pleased to offer parents and educators the guidance they’re looking for on real-world issues. Digital citizens aren’t born, they’re taught!”

Common Sense has been at the forefront of helping educators, administrators, and schools navigate the tricky online world their students are living in. The curriculum is now used in classrooms across all 50 states and in more than 50,000 schools by more than half a million educators.

The middle school curriculum includes lessons on:

  • Digital Media and Your Brain: From Fortnite to Snapstreaks, technology has sneaky ways to keep kids online as long as possible. Indeed, lots of tweens and teens admit they feel “addicted” to their phones or the apps and games they use. Common Sense’s curriculum helps students understand the many ways digital media tries to hook us and what we can do about it to achieve a healthy balance.
  • Sexting and Relationships: It’s natural for teens to be curious about their emerging sexuality. But most middle schoolers aren’t prepared for the risks of exploring this in the digital age. Common Sense’s curriculum helps students think critically about self-disclosure in relationships and practice how they’d respond to a situation where sexting — or a request for sexting — might happen.
  • Hate Speech: Unfortunately, hate speech, misogyny, and other forms of derogatory language are now ubiquitous online. Common Sense’s curriculum helps tweens and teens understand how online hate speech hurts people and communities.
  • Identifying Fake News: The web is full of questionable stuff, from rumors and inaccurate information to outright lies and so-called fake news. So how do we help students weed out the bad and find what’s credible? Common Sense’s curriculum helps students dig into why and how false information ends up online in the first place and learn how to evaluate the credibility of what they’re finding online.

The Common Sense Digital Citizenship Curriculum is available free to all schools thanks to the generous support of the following foundations and donors: the Best Buy Foundation, the Bezos Family Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, the Morgan Family Foundation, Niagara Cares, the Sherwood Foundation, Symantec, and the Wasserman Family Foundation.

For more information, visit https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship.

About Common Sense
Common Sense is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.

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