When I was in middle school, computer class was spent learning the basics of “keyboarding” and rushing to finish the lesson so I could get back to my journey on the Oregon Trail. My main goal was to survive the river crossings, maintain enough buffalo meat to sustain my family and arrive safely in California with my entire fake family still alive.
Today, many schools are teaching their first graders the basic computer skills I was learning at 13. Teens have always been the quickest adopters of new technology, as parents and teachers struggle to keep up and equip teens to make good decisions online.
When I visited Dunne Technology Academy in South Chicago earlier this week, most of the students were getting ready for their summer break, but we paused for a bit to talk about what they’re doing online. The majority of these tech-savvy teens had all encountered cyberbullying at some point, had seen pictures and information on profiles they thought were inappropriate, and had had someone try to trick them through a phishing scam.
We spent the day discussing ways to avoid being scammed, how to create an online profile that can be an asset rather than a liability, and actions you can take if you’re being bullied, harassed or see inappropriate content. Most students seemed to understand that their online identity and their “real world” self were one and the same, and that they have choices in managing their content and reputation online. We agreed that by applying the rules of good citizenship online, the Internet would be a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.
So while teens have more difficult choices online today than to ford or to ferry the river in Oregon Trail, we can prepare them to make smart decisions online. Check out the educational materials from our Digital Literacy Tour in our Google For Educators site at www.google.com/educators/digitalliteracy.html.