Guest Commentary – The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Movement: The Next Big Trend in Education Legislation?

February 2017 in , , , ,

JR Starrett is a Senior Director of National Advocacy for Common Sense Kids Action

Kids and teens today are using the immense power of digital media to explore, connect, create, and learn in ways never before imagined. With this power, young people have extraordinary opportunities, and yet they face potential pitfalls, too. Meanwhile, schools are dealing with the associated ramifications — such as cyberbullying, digital cheating, and safety and security concerns. These issues underscore the need for students to learn — and for teachers to teach — digital literacy and citizenship skills.

Kids have never had as much access to the internet and mobile technologies at home and school as they do today. We must recognize that media and technology have become commonplace in all areas of our lives. In our classrooms, students must learn how to safely, ethically, responsibly, and effectively use media and technology resources. Schools can play a critical role by educating, empowering, and engaging children with the best practices around technology use. While media and technology have great promise for learning, young people need support and education to learn how to make sound judgments when navigating the digital world. School administrators and educators are now faced with new and at times overwhelming challenges, such as those related to privacy, digital footprints, cyberbullying, and sexting.

Policymakers around the country are now seeking legislative solutions. In 2016, Washington state championed the nation’s first comprehensive digital citizenship and media literacy legislation. The bill calls on the State Education Agency (SEA) to develop and distribute a list of digital citizenship and media literacy best practices and recommendations to school administrators. It uses a state advisory committee that includes researchers, administrators, educators, and others to review digital citizenship and media literacy curriculum and policy. Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 6273 into law in March of 2016.

Other states are taking notice. Policymakers from Arizona, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Rhode Island have introduced legislation that is modeled upon the Washington state approach. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently released a Legis Brief (Vol. 25, No. 07) discussing the legislative trends and successful strategies that have been identified within states across the country.

Common Sense Kids Action has been a leading resource for policymakers, school administrators, educators, and parents interested in learning additional ways to help kids thrive in a world driven by media and technology. We believe good online behavior mimics good offline behavior and that there is no differentiating between the two when it comes to safety, responsibility, and respect.

For questions, comments or consideration of digital citizenship and media literacy legislation within your state, please contact JR Starrett at jstarrett@commonsense.org.