Tackling Digital Safety Matters

by Natalie Jackson
JCDS pledges to ensure their students are educated on digital safety matters.
At JCDS, we utilize evidence-based and evidence-informed resources such as the Monique Burr Foundation, Common Sense Media, and Wait Till 8th to build the school’s digital safety curriculum. JCDS also hosts parent/student technology and digital safety meetings to educate the school community on the proper use of the technology both on campus and at home.

In January of 2022, JCDS became the first school in Northeast Florida to run 100% on Apple Products. Every teacher is equipped with an iPad Pro that connects to the display board in the classroom using an AppleTV; and every student in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades is provided an iPad at the beginning of the school year for their use in class and for assignments as designated by the faculty. Before these students can receive their iPads they and their parents/guardians are required to attend a digital safety meeting which goes over the student expectations, how to use the apps installed on the iPad, and the JCDS technology code.

“All of the information we teach our students about digital safety only works if they also have a plan in place at home. This meeting shows parents how we conduct digital safety and how they can be consistent with their views at home,” said Cristina Knodel, Computer Science & Technology Specialist.

Once the meeting is over they must sign an iPad policy stating that they attended the meeting and understand the basic topics in the presentation. Throughout the year the students will continue to be educated on digital safety, reaffirming what was said in the presentation while going into further detail.

Liz McNairy, JCDS School Counselor, utilizes materials from the Monique Burr Foundation which “educates and protects children from all types of bullying abuse and other child victimization,” including online scenarios, to provide a basis for her discussions with students on digital safety. Their lessons center around the five safety rules: know what’s up, spot red flags, talk it up, make a move, no blame no shame. During their deep dive into digital safety sessions, Ms. McNairy provides scenarios where students discuss what to do if they encounter any digital danger. They use the five safety rules for each scenario to help navigate and resolve the issue.

“Our mission at JCDS is to educate the whole child and prepare students for a lifetime of character development among other things. These scenarios help prepare students for complex situations they might encounter in the future. As they grow older and become more independent they will have the knowledge to make smart and informed decisions,” said Ms. McNairy.

The Monique Burr Foundation "no blame no shame" rule encourages students to tell an adult when something is not right. Ms. McNairy asks students to name two adults they trust, one at home and one at school, that they can go to if they come across something they deem unsafe on the internet and they are unsure of what to do. This helps build relationships and allow students to not be afraid of telling an adult about unsafe situations.

“I think kids are being exposed to a lot of things they are not ready for through technology and they don’t know how to handle them. Which is why as adults and teachers we need to help them and not expect that they know how to handle the more complex topics,” said Emma Lipman, JCDS Technology Integration Team Lead.

During technology class with specialist Cristina Knodel, students continue to learn about other ways to remain safe while utilizing technology. Ms. Knodel’s digital safety curriculum is guided by Common Sense Media, an online platform “dedicated to providing trustworthy information, education and (be an) independent voice.”

Digital safety extends to students being able to think critically about the information that is being presented to them. Are they able to decipher what a trusted or credible source is? It is important that students learn what sources and citations provide factual and reliable information.

During their digital safety discussions Cristina Knodel and students also focus on media balance – balancing your time online with the time spent without the use of technology.

“As kids become more reliant on technology, our goal is that they learn how to find a good balance and how to use it as a tool and not a crutch,” said Ms. Knodel. “We talk about focusing on your friendships, going outside, picking up a hobby, doing something creative, having dinner without any phones, not using screens right before bed.”
Other digital safety measures JCDS have in place include not allowing students to use cellphones on campus, have watches connected to the internet, or use any smart technology not provided by the school on campus. Teachers are able to utilize the Apple classroom to monitor students real time iPad activity and assume control of any iPad that is in need of getting back on track.

JCDS will continue to partner with parents/guardians on digital safety matters throughout the year including during specific Parents Association meetings dedicated to this subject led by our technology team of experts. JCDS is committed to preparing students for a lifetime of intellectual exploration, character development and social responsibility, and this commitment extends to the education of shaping good digital citizens.