As students of all ages increase their use of social media, the Internet, and technology in general, online safety is becoming more crucial. To address this issue, all three Mahopac elementary schools participated in Digital Citizenship Week, where each school held lessons on Internet safety for every student.
Digital Citizenship Week is sponsored by Commonsensemedia.org, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children get the most out of technology in the safest possible environment.
“It is really important that students know how to behave when they’re online,” said Mahopac School District Instructional Technology Specialist John Sebalos.
Sebalos hosted a Digital Citizenship day at Lakeview, Austin Road and Fulmar Road elementary schools, along with each school’s building technology officers and staff.
“Each student, from kindergarten through fifth grade, got an age-appropriate lesson on safe, appropriate Internet use,” said Sebalos. “With Mahopac’s innovative and expansive use of technology within the K-5 classrooms, digital citizenship becomes increasingly important. It sets a model of how we want our students to behave and interact online both in and out of school while being able to collaborate and work in a 21st century learning environment.”
For younger students, talking about privacy online is particularly important. “Sharing things like your name, address, school or other personal information is never OK,” Sebalos told students.
“Through humor and interactive activities, our students were able to grasp the basic concepts of how to behave responsibly online,” said Austin Road teacher and safety presenter Tiffany Ziegelhofer, who was impressed by students’ reception of the day. “They were really attentive and motivated to learn.”
For older students, the lesson was more focused on appropriate behavior online and avoiding cyberbullying.
Addressing a group of fifth graders at Fulmar Road, Sebalos showed a film about Internet safety and then gave out game cards with prompts asking students what they would do in certain scenarios. “I wanted them to work as a group,” Sebalos said, “ so they could really discuss the options.”
Students were asked to consider what they would do if a person they did not know asked for personal information online; how to handle a fellow student making a rude comment about a teacher on a social media site; and what type of information is private versus public.
“The students did really well with their responses in class, but the real test will be how they respond when there is no teacher or friend around,” said Fulmar Road Principal Gary Chadwick, who also led a class on Internet safety.
Fifth grader Gabby said she thought people should use discretion when they are using social media. “There are some things we shouldn’t say online because they just aren’t nice,” she said.
Fifth grader Jayson said, “You can’t give out personal information online because you can’t trust someone you don’t know.”
Lakeview teacher Jenn Borst said she thought the day gave students a real understanding of what is expected of them and what is safe. “It was great hearing the children talk about their digital footprint,” she said. “They walked away with a real understanding of private information versus personal information.”