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Lessons in online life

“Surpringly rare” is how the Washington Post describes an innovative school class in which kids are taught how to manage their digital lives.

Between their math and literacy classes, these elementary school kids were studying up on perhaps one of the most important and least understood school subjects in America — how to protect their privacy, save their brains and survive the big, bad Web.”

It is the brainchild of Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, and, unlike many internet safety lessons cropping up in classrooms across the globe, it is being taught by legal fellows.

Here’s the scope:

“…to teach students about privacy, reputation, online advertising and overuse at the age when their research found that many American kids get their first cellphones, about 10 years old, though some in their classes were given phones years earlier.”

The professors know they’ve a challenge on their hands though: the average student in one of their classes spends five to six hours online every day. And that’s why there are also companion classes for parents which mainly focus on overuse – a habit, incidentally, that the child catches from his elders.

But the teachers are also well aware technology is moving faster than they can. So if it’s too late to get the kids to turn their phones off, then they can at least be shown how to use technology well. It seems to be sinking in.

“Susan, a 10-year-old in pink sneakers has learned valuable lessons in the class: ‘I will make sure that I don’t tell nobody my personal stuff,” she said, “and be offline for at least two hours every night.'”


UnHerd’s series on social media is ongoing:

My intro to the series

Susan Linn’s summary of key research

Our profile of Sherry Turkle and her extensive work

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