Canadian children's advocacy organization the Media Awareness Network has an interesting approach to online-safety education for elementary and middle school students. Called "Passport to the Internet," it's a graphically appealing virtual environment for which students in grades 4-8 earn their "passports" by choosing avatars that walk through lessons in safety, ethics, bullying, critical thinking, and privacy management in "MyFace" – lessons that simulate "online environments used by young people on a daily basis," the Media Awareness Network told me in an email conversation. The curriculum can be licensed in either English or French by schools, districts, or education departments or ministries. Based on viewing the demo, it seems to me the curriculum would be more effective – at least here in the States – at the younger end of the targeted grade spectrum. Two reasons occur: "Passport" suggests we're talking about a different country or space to which one travels, and teens, at least, make less and less of a distinction between the online "space" and the "real world" one; social networking is just part of socializing. The other reason is that this is a curriculum by and from adults to kids, more effective in elementary school. I think for the middle-school level we need collectively to figure out how to work social norming into online-risk-prevention education.
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