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Turning students into better "digital citizens"

9:02 PM, Nov 16, 2011   |    comments
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NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- As cyberbullying becomes a bigger issue for educators, half of Maine schools are using the same strategy.

It's a program by a national organization called Common Sense Media, and it teaches kids to do just what it says: use media sensibly.

The curriculum's goal is to make students into better "digital citizens," teaching them about cyberbullying and its consequences through weekly lessons and multimedia content.

The Common Sense Media curriculum is free -- school districts only need to provide the time and instruction.

"I would encourage all schools to be looking at this, because it is becoming more and more a part of our every day lives," said Jeff Mao, of the Maine Department of Education.

Some teachers think the subject of digital citizenship is just as important as the other subjects taught in a school-day.

"One kid that gets bullied, it can ruin their whole school career," said Dana Beane, a sixth grade teacher at the Mill Stream School in Norridgewock.

"[Bullying] is something that can stay with them their entire life," said Beane.

Students say the old image of a schoolyard bully could be becoming a thing of the past -- as more bullying happens behind computer screens.

"It's happening more than people going around hitting each other," said sixth grader Thomas Leo.

"And that's much more common now, than physical [bullying], actually," said sixth grader Sare Greenlaw.

Greenlaw said cyberbullying is the kind of bullying that stays with you.

"Sometimes you're told you're ugly, or sometimes they'll call you a nerd if you're smart," she said. "And it does not feel good, and it makes you not sleep at night."

Laura Richter, the technology teacher that teaches the curriculum at the Mill Stream School, said the side-effects of cyberbullying are visible.

"You can see the stress when [students] talk about something that was posted," she said, adding that it's "on their mind 24/7."

Since starting the new program, some students can see a difference in their peers.

"Girls are much less catty now that we've started talking about this," said Greenlaw.

For the students and teachers in Norridgewock, cyberbullying prevention is a priority, even if most of it happens outside the school.

"If we don't [teach it,] it will be like parrallel universes," said Richter.

"And then where will they get guidance?"

NEWS CENTER

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