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From Hawaii to Maryland, States Are Improving Tech for Kids

Across the country, parents, educators, and legislators are looking for policy solutions that lead to healthier, safer, and more productive digital lives for all kids and families.

Across the country, parents, educators, and legislators are teaming up to tackle the issues that we face in trying to ensure that our time online is healthy, safe, and productive. That is a tall order in today's complicated world, and we thank these forward-thinking legislators for their bills.

Hawaii recently became the latest state to vote for digital citizenship skills earlier this month -- and the idea continues to spread to more states, such as Alabama. In Maryland, the State Senate unanimously voted to send a bill to Governor Larry Hogan requiring the development of a health and safety best practices bill for the use of digital devices and the web in schools.

A recent EdSurge headline notes "It's Not Digital Citizenship, It's Citizenship, Period," and another magazine called digital citizenship "the new normal," explaining, "Common Sense launched its DigCit curriculum after their research showed kids struggling with values, ethics, and decision-making online." The Maryland bill tackles another worry of parents, that social media use can affect the emotional, social, psychological, and physical development of young people.

Parents are driving this adoption, reflecting greater understanding and focus on the tricky situations kids find online, as well as tech's larger impacts on families. Digital life is fun for everyone, but there is a growing consensus that we need to better protect our privacy and safety online. Kids need new skills to handle everything from how to deal with cyberbullying, privacy violations, and news literacy, and families need good research about how and when to use tech safely and healthily.

Common Sense Kids Action began working in 2017 with a national coalition of like-minded organizations in an effort to pass modeled legislation that would expand school and district access to digital citizenship and media-literacy resources. In 2018, we have expanded this to look at the "Truth About Tech" of how companies are using techniques to increase addiction to their products.

Last week we had a lot of wins for kids. The Hawaii Senate passed SB 2070 by a 25-to-0 vote, showing unanimous support for the measure, and the Alabama State Board of Education adopted a similar policy. The Maryland House passed HB 1110 by 139 to 0, following a 44-to-0 vote in the Senate, and it now goes to Governor Hogan to be signed. Reflecting the bipartisan appeal of this subject, the Hawaii bill is sponsored by a Democratic legislator, and the Maryland bill is sponsored by a Republican.

Want to join the national campaign for digital citizenship and digital well-being? Join our efforts -- become a Kids Action Advocate today.

Shum Preston