Summer vacation. It’s usually a magical memory for most adults when reflecting upon childhood. With days that seem to stretch on for eternity — from heading out barefoot into the dewy grass, playing video games for hours upon end, to participating in competitive versions of Spotlight – August always felt like it was oh, so far away. Summer 2016 is no different, really. Inheriting those same endless days, our students will have months to engage in their own adventures, though those may look a little different now.
The difference is these summer activities will definitely include texting and Social Media, even for children as young as 9-years-old. Text messages, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Kik … let’s just say there are A LOT apps and texts that will get a workout as kids fill those long hot days with activity. Do I detect a shiver of fear coursing through your body? It should, because without a doubt, our students will soon be on the loose and equipped with technology.
I bring up this issue because teachers can be proactive before kids leave our schools for the next two months. Now that testing has essentially wrapped up, the remaining school days are a perfect time for some strategic lessons on Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety. Teachers can work in instruction on cyberbullying and sexting in between Field Day events, awards ceremonies, and other end-of-year activities that turn the remaining days into a hodgepodge of class time. Yes, those seniors can’t wait to graduate, but why not generate some rich discussions about digital footprints and the impact those can have on their work lives — or even how they’ll handling cyberbullying in the work place? By tackling these topics, teachers fill a legitimate instructional need that will pay huge dividends for their students’ safety and mental health over the summer and into the future.
For lesson resources, check with your school’s Internet Safety Coordinator or explore Common Sense Media’s curriculum. I also recommend Parry Aftab’s blog for sparking discussion ideas on current topics in the news. Aftab was one of the first lawyers to begin practicing cyberlaw and has evolved into a champion for children’s online safety. However, if you have any doubts about age appropriateness of topics, please discuss them with the school coordinator prior to instruction.
The reality is those endless summer days may not leave magical memories for our kids if they get themselves into trouble with social media and texting during June and July. Let’s act now to equip them with information and reminders about using technology in an appropriate, enjoyable manner. They deserve it.