Cyber Civics: It's So Relevant!

In a recent Cyber Civics lesson, Level 1: Your Digital Reputation, my 6th grade students were tasked with combing through the ‘social media profiles’ of a couple fictitious students to see who was more deserving of a college scholarship they were going to pretend to award.

My class was digging into the social media posts of the candidates, looking at their school websites, local news stories, their Tweets, blog posts, work reviews, etc... and generally acting like detectives to see what they could find out about the character, behavior and online presence of these students. They needed to answer the question:

“Who is more impressive, honest, and upstanding?”

This exercise is fascinating for my students when we debrief because they are asked to evaluate a person’s character with a very limited set of data points - how reflective of real life is that? It’s not always right or even fair to evaluate people like this, but it is the reality. More on this important lesson later.

During this particular Zoom Cyber Civics class a prospective student was visiting. Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but occasionally there are issues with students texting or using phones during class, especially when we are on Zoom. On this particular day, the visiting student - clearly new to the rules - was asked to put away his cell phone and stay with the lesson. So naturally, he started using his iMessage on his computer to text other kids in the class. Within minutes of my asking him to please stow the phone for the duration of class, I received an SOS text message from a parent in the class who shared this screenshot of a message sent by the visiting student to their child, a current student in the class:

The text was intended for a student, but (smartly!) the student's mom had some parental controls on her child’s device, and more importantly, had an open line of communication about acceptable online behavior and expectations with her child, so that the student felt comfortable reporting the text.