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 Relationships, Privacy

and Screen Time

Digital citizens must know how to make and maintain safe and healthy online relationships, protect their privacy, and manage their screen time. This is a lot to learn! That is why Cyber Civics includes three years of weekly turnkey, hands-on, sequential lessons and activities that teach these skills in a way that makes sense. We believe students learn best when they investigate and discuss these topics together. That way the norms they negotiate in the classroom become the norms they take with them online.

Choose Online Friends Wisely!

It’s important for young digital citizens to be careful about choosing their online friends. They should know when to say NO to unsafe online relationships and how to maintain some online privacy.


Remind your students how easy it is for someone to hide his or her identity online. Any stranger, or even company, can pretend to be someone or something they’re not in order to gain our trust. To keep safe from strangers online, smart digital citizens should follow these very basic “rules of the road”: 

• Never share personal information online. This includes your name, address, telephone number, birthdate, social security number, name of school, parent information, passwords, etc.

• Don’t respond to text messages or emails unless you know who they are from.

• Know who you "friend" online.

• Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone you meet online. If someone asks to meet you, tell a trusted adult immediately.

Share the following video from the Cyber Civics curriculum with your students:

Your Personal Information is Valuable!

Understanding that personal information is a valuable commodity may be one of the most important lessons for young digital citizens to learn. Be sure your students grasp the fact that nothing online is truly free. We pay for the wonderful content and services delivered by the Internet with our personal data. Understanding this exchange is important.

In Cyber Civics we teach students this skill by explaining the language of online privacy (see below) and then we ask them to review the privacy policies of popular social media sites. They love these lessons! See for yourself… 

The Language of Online Privacy

A Digital Citizen Knows
How to Manage Screen Time

Knowing how and why to manage screen time is a theme we revisit often during Cyber Civics. A favorite lesson for older students—"Your Brain on Tech"—teaches them how and why digital tools keep them “hooked.” You’d be surprised at their reaction to this information! Nobody, let alone a teenager, likes to be manipulated. Learning how this happens online is empowering information for a young digital citizen. Check out the video from this lesson:



You can help your students understand online privacy by teaching them these important terms:

  • Personal information: Includes your name, address, email address, phone number, age, etc. 

  • Cookies: Small files placed on your device by some sites you visit. Cookies enable sites to “remember” your data. 

  • Third party: “Party” is a legal term for a person or entity. A “third party” is a person or entity other than the one you may have entered into an agreement with. 

  • License: Official permission to do, use, or own something. 

  • User content: Includes words, images, videos, audio, memes, or anything else you post online. 

  • Location information: Information about where a device user is located. Apps and websites can determine location by using cellular, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, etc. 

  • Log file information: A log file records events that occur on a device and may include search queries, how web services were used, and information about crashes, hardware settings, browser type, and more. 

  • Monetization: The process of making money. 

Try this with your students:


Ask them to think about a ping that announces a new text message or email. Ask: Have you ever received such a notification? How did it make you feel? Did it immediately make you want to grab for your phone, or click on a computer?


Tell students that a notification, like a ping announcing a new text message, or an email, or that we were just tagged in a photo, rewards our brains with a small dose of a chemical called dopamine. Many people call this the “feel good” chemical because it does make one feel good! And when we go online to see what the ping announced, we get rewarded with a second dose of this “feel good” chemical too.


Seeing new “likes,” comments, or that someone has tagged us in a photo releases dopamine in the brain. The dopamine reward center that notifications activate is the same area of the brain where addicts experience pleasure from eating, drugs, alcohol and even video-game play.


Ask students to think of online activities that can activate the reward center of the brain. Their answers might include: a new photo posted by a friend, an invitation to play a game, or getting mentioned in a post. All of these online activities feel pleasurable to the human brain and make us want to use our devices more. Ask: Do you find it hard to do homework if you get a notification for something online?


Remind students that it is easy to turn off this distracting feature on any of the sites or apps we use.

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