Montgomery County’s middle school students are learning about digital citizenship this year, part of a new initiative to boost understanding of how to use technology responsibly and keep safe online.
The program, announced Wednesday, includes four hours of instruction a year covering issues, such as privacy, cyberbullying, reputation, Internet safety, digital drama and information literacy. Though it starts with middle schoolers, it will extend to grades 3, 4, 5, 9 and 10 next year, and include all grades by 2018.
“We want to ensure that our students understand how to use technology in a responsible and respectful manner and are smart about how they engage online,” Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement.
The project comes as part of a school district partnership with Common Sense Education, a nonprofit group focused on how children interact with media and technology.
“We look forward to working with Common Sense Education to equip our teachers, students, and families with the resources they need to make informed choices when using technology and social media,” Smith said.
Montgomery school officials said the effort was being funded through a grant from the Delaney Family Fund. April McClain-Delaney, a communications lawyer, is Washington director of Common Sense, and Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), has been in office for two terms and is running for reelection.
The effort comes two weeks after four 13-year-olds were charged by police for making threats on social media against students at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney. The threats were clown-related, at a time of similar incidents at colleges, high schools and grade schools across the country.
The new Montgomery effort follows an earlier focus on civility online.
Then-Superintendent Joshua P. Starr created a cyber civility task force in late 2013 after he received offensive tweets as he and other district officials weighed whether to close schools for snow and icy weather. Some tweets included cursing or racial epithets.
Common Sense officials said the organization has partnerships with more than 50 school districts nationally, including in the District, Alexandria, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.