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Digital Citizenship Messages Shared with Parents & Students

We have all heard the expression, “First impressions form lasting impressions.” Denise DeRosa, founder of the digital safety company Cyber Sensible suggests that a person’s online impression may now be that first one, and she stresses making careful choices to ensure that it will, indeed, be a positive one.
“It is well known that colleges and employers are conducting Internet searches to help them develop a picture of a candidate and assist in deciding if that person will be a good fit for their community,” explained DeRosa as she spoke to Sanford’s Upper School student body and faculty on November 3rd. This was one of three divisional assemblies with age-appropriate content presented by DeRosa, who was invited to Sanford through the coordinated efforts of the Counseling Department and Home & School Association.

As someone who loves technology, DeRosa actively used social media as she pursued her early career path, which led to stops at media branding organizations such as AOL, MTV, and VH1. A master’s degree from Georgetown University in communication, culture, and technology solidified DeRosa’s thinking that these three areas are interconnected, rapid-paced influences on society, and therefore, our children. On November 2nd, the evening prior to the student presentations, DeRosa delivered a parent presentation where she reminded parents that technology is here to stay, and advised them to use their role to assist their children with its use. She advocates that parents:

• Learn what platforms of social media their children are using
• Enable privacy restrictions
• Know the age limits and content of the apps and games their children are accessing
• Have conversations at home about when and how to use technology.

Parents also have the opportunity to model good digital citizenship for their children and capitalize on the opportunity to prepare them for a successful future with healthy social media and technology skills. Reflecting on DeRosa’s message, Upper School Counselor Lauren Ziady shared, “There can be some discomfort as a parent. We all need this type of education and understanding, along with time, to process what our children are learning with technology and how we as parents can best monitor and support them.”

Harnessing the positive potential of what technology has to offer was a common thread in DeRosa’s presentations. Even the youngest students can learn to be good digital citizens and practice what she calls “Cyber Etiquette,” which is a digital version of the Golden Rule. Students in all divisions were reminded to be thoughtful of their posts and to demonstrate respect for others by asking permission to share any information, including photos, of others before posting. Head of School Mark Anderson told the Upper School students, “It’s a whole new world for students and adults. This presentation has been a great reminder that we all need to consider what we do and say online, and we must make certain that it is something we would do or say in person. The issues of online bullying and sexting are not school issues, but legal ones. Please, stop, think, and consider before putting yourself into a situation with potential repercussions.”

DeRosa encouraged students to use and have fun with social media, but to be smart about their choices. This includes being purposeful with their selections, restrained in what is shared, and skeptical of strangers seeking personal information. “You are creating a digital tattoo, which is to say that public sharing becomes permanent. Private is never really private once it has been posted,” she said. “By enjoying a “healthy tech diet,” students are mindful of what platforms they use, maintain a private, strong password, and use social media appropriately. “Sometimes a face to face conversation still works best,” concluded DeRosa.

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