SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 12, 2019—As students head back to school this month, Common Sense is releasing a new Digital Citizenship Curriculum for K–2 and high school students, concluding a complete overhaul of the lessons. They now better address critical issues that teachers and parents say are challenging children as they navigate a fast-changing digital terrain fraught with hate speech, cyberbullying, fake media and constant digital distraction.
Common Sense moved to revamp the lessons that first came out eight years ago as it recognized a growing swell of concern over the ability of children to handle the increasingly sophisticated challenges of the digital world and the rising use of technology by younger and younger children. Grim reports of teen suicide, addiction, eroding social skills, and anxiety and depression have parents on edge. New permutations of cyberbullying and the rise of online hate speech have surfaced in classrooms. Sexting incidents have moved beyond high school to middle school and even upper elementary school. Educators complain about digital distraction, short attention spans, and the decreased ability of their students to focus in the classroom. Unfettered access to inappropriate online content—including violence, sex, and self-harm—continue to be deeply concerning to parents and educators alike.
The innovative lessons, which teach students to think critically and develop habits and the social intelligence they need to face digital dilemmas, were created in collaboration with researchers Carrie James and Emily Weinstein from Project Zero, a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The curriculum was guided by work with thousands of educators and parents to identify top concerns.
The revamped curriculum, free to all schools, was put out in phases over the course of the 2018–2019 school year, with the final lessons for grades K–2 and 9–12 released today for back to school.
"While we've made small changes to the curriculum in the eight years since we launched our K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum, the digital landscape has become vastly more complicated for educators, parents, and kids to navigate," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. "This updated curriculum will take kids beyond fundamental digital citizenship skills to address current real-world issues and dilemmas and to give them the social-emotional skills they will need to thrive both online and offline."
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 shared in classrooms across all 50 states and abroad and in almost 80,000 schools by millions of educators, reaching a diverse student population—with 68% of registered schools listed as Title I.
What's new in the updated curriculum for K–2 and high school:
Revised and expanded topics. The core topics have been updated to address educators' and parents' most urgent concerns, specifically Media Balance & Well-Being; Cyberbullying, Digital Drama, & Hate Speech; and News & Media Literacy. Privacy & Security, Relationships & Communication, Digital Footprint and Identity are additional topics.
A new focus on developing healthy habits. The lessons are designed so that kids develop the habits and skills to take control of their digital lives for themselves, covering key behaviors such as when and how to slow down, why it's essential to seek facts and evidence, and to explore different perspectives as part of keeping online discourse civil and constructive.
New songs and poems for grades K–2. With device use aging down, the new curriculum addresses some of the key media balance and safety issues most relevant to younger students. It also includes a band of fun characters and three original songs with corresponding music videos. The lesson plans also include additional materials such as posters, which gives educators everything they need to engage young students.
Videos that keep it real. We worked with young people to develop a Teen Voices video series. In these videos, we hear from teens themselves on the real issues they're dealing with in school and at home. We also collaborated with KQED Education's series Above the Noise to develop videos that empower students to make up their own minds about controversial topics by presenting multiple views on issues that affect them. All of these videos provide an entry point for lessons that wade into the complexity of the digital lives students are living and encourage rich classroom discussion and critical thinking.
Multilingual family engagement materials. This year we've expanded the supporting digital citizenship family outreach to include translations in: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
All of the new K–12 lessons are available for free on Common Sense Education's website. Lessons for grades 3–8 are also available through Nearpod, an interactive student engagement platform widely used by classroom educators, with the new K–2 and 9–12 lessons becoming available later this year.
For more information, visit https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship.
The development of the new Common Sense Digital Citizenship Curriculum was generously supported by the Bezos Family Foundation, the Kern Family Foundation, Niagara Cares, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Morgan Family Foundation, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, Twitter Inc., the Susan Crown Exchange, and the Wasserman Family Foundation.
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.
*Spanish speakers available for interviews upon request. Contact Viviana Reveron at [email protected].