The New Lesson Plan for Elementary School: Surviving the Internet

The title of this post is identical to the digital title of an article by Drew Harwell in the 7 April 2018 issue of the Washington Post. The article describe Yolanda Bromfield’s fifth grade digital-privacy class. The lesson was on online-offline balance, so she asked how would they act when they left school and reentered a world of prying websites, addictive phones and online scams. One student answered, “I will make sure that I don’t tell nobody my personal stuff, and be offline for at least two hours every night.”

Author Harwell writes, “Between their math and literacy classes, these elementary school kids were studying up on perhaps one of the most important and least understood school subjects in American—how to protect their brains and survive the big, bad Web.

This course is part of an experimental curriculum designed by Seton Hall University Law School professors and taught by a legal fellow such as Bromfield. This class has been rolled out in recent months to hundreds of children in a dozen classrooms across New York and New Jersey. These classes are free and are folded into kids’ daily schedules and taught in the classrooms where fifth- and sixth-graders typically learn about the scientific method and the food chain. The director of Seton Hall Law’s Institute for Privacy Protection, Gaia Bernstein, who designed the program, said each class included about a half-dozen lessons taught to kids over several weeks, as well as a separate set of leeches of parents concerned about how “their children are disappearing into their screens.”

The program is funded by a $1.7 million grant that was awarded by a federal judge as part of a class-action consumer-protection settlement pending over junk faxes—to teach students about privacy, reputation, online advertising and overuse at the age when their research found that many American kids get their first cell phones when they are 10 years old.

The Seton Hall instructors said they had no interest in teaching kids digital abstinence or in instructing parents how to be the computer police. They conceded that the internet is a fact of life and children always find ways around their parents’ barriers.

The students’ parents are offered separate classes that focus largely on how parents should deal with kid’s overuse. Of course in a world where much of their homework and friendships play out online, it needs to be defined what normal use even looks like. Bernstein said, “What really bothers parents is how they are losing their children, and how family life is changing.

In February the advocacy group Common Sense Media said it would expand a “digital citizenship” curriculum now offered free at tens of thousands of nationwide public schools. This program addresses the topics of self-image, relationships, information literacy and mental well-being. Lesson plans for the program range from kindergarten (“Going Place Safely,” Screen Out the Mean”) to high school (“Taking Perspectives on Cyberbullying,” “Oops! I Broadcast It on the Internet”).

Let us hope that these activities grow and become standards.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: