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Empowering Students to Be InCtrl in a Digital Age

Frank is the Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom, the education foundation of the cable telecommunications industry.

When we talk to our kids about the Internet and their digital world, have we kept up with the times? Are we trying to scare them with stories of bad things that can happen or are we teaching them to be good digital citizens who are in control of their digital lives?

The old fear-based approach doesn’t work, and it isn’t supported by the research about online risks, about risk prevention, or about effective teaching and learning. And, in an age of smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops, advice like maintaining oversight by placing the family computer in the kitchen is as dated as leg warmers and MC Hammer pants. We can’t keep kids shielded from the digital world forever. Instead, we have to prepare them to be thoughtful and effective users of these devices, emphasizing how to be safe, secure, ethical and responsible digital citizens.

In research Cable in the Classroom conducted last year, educators, parents and caregivers said they realized the importance of teaching digital citizenship, but had trouble finding resources to help them do that. Where can a mom or dad find out about digital literacy, cyberbullying, maintaining a digital reputation, or copyright and plagiarism? Where can they find tips for encouraging thoughtful conversations with their kids instead of turning them off with long lists of scary things they shouldn’t do?

That’s why Cable in the Classroom created InCtrl, a series of free lessons exploring digital citizenship topics. Each lesson contains activity suggestions, talking points, background information, and helpful videos for educators, parents, afterschool program staff, and caregivers. Consider InCtrl lessons an introduction to these topics and use them to broach a subject, explore situations, and begin the dialogue between adults and kids about these important subjects.

Looking to start a conversation with your child about maintaining a great digital reputation? Or how to evaluate the credibility of what they find in an online search? InCtrl can help with thought-provoking videos and tips for exploring topics in positive and proactive ways that engage children.

In the end, we want our children to grow into independent thinkers and responsible citizens of our family, neighborhood, school, and community. Each of these roles now includes a digital element, whether doing homework online, Skyping with distant relatives, or using a government website. We want kids to be good digital citizens, too, and the first step is helping them learn how to be safely InCtrl.

Learn more about InCtrl and how you can get involved here.

Frank Gallagher is Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom (CIC).  He is a specialist in the areas of media and information literacy, internet safety, media education, and the impact of media on children and speaks frequently on those topics. Mr. Gallagher manages CIC’s staff, work, and strategic direction.  He was a consulting editor to CIC’s publications, Cable in the Classroom Magazine and Threshold, and is also responsible for tracking the cable industry’s work with schools, and writing briefing materials for both the cable and education communities.

Mr. Gallagher has served on the board of directors of National PTA and is immediate past chair and a member of the executive committee of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and is on the Interim Board of the National Forum on Information Literacy.  In addition, he is on the Communications Commission of California PTA, the national advisory board for the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and on the Washington, DC, advisory board of Common Sense Media. He is a recipient of a 2011 Family Online Safety Institute Award for Outstanding Achievement for his work in media literacy and digital citizenship.

Prior to joining Cable in the Classroom in 1995, Mr. Gallagher was an educator and taught in a Maryland middle school. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona and received a master’s degree in Instructional Systems Design from the University of Maryland. - See more at: http://www.ciconline.org/AboutUs/Staff#sthash.9Irq4uDE.dpuf

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