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 Keeping Kids Safe and Smart Online

Nowadays, students live most of their social life online.

That's why teaching them to be safe, smart, and responsible digital citizens is so important.

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is helping to make that happen with its Digital Citizenship program, which also encourages more open and honest communication between parents and their children.

As part of the effort, SDCOE specialists will hold workshops Feb. 1 specifically created for school district parent family liaisons or parent academic liaisons.

The $15 workshops, offered either in the morning or afternoon, will focus on ways to help parents and students think critically, participate responsibly, and behave ethically online. Register online for the morning or afternoon session at the SDCOE main campus in San Diego.

"We know there's a need to help kids be more critical consumers online, and to help them be more aware of and strategic about the image and personal brand they're putting out there," said Michanne Hoctor-Thompson, coordinator of educational technology at SDCOE.

There's also a real need to help some parents understand and navigate the online world.

"It's about helping parents open up communication with their children and create a stronger support network, especially to counteract the bullying that's become more pervasive," Hoctor-Thompson said. "As parents, we're immigrants online compared to our younger digital natives who are constantly connected."

Opening up those conversations can help make it easier for families to discuss other important social and emotional issues facing their children each day, said Andy Quintana, a project specialist with SDCOE.

"I think this will have a bigger societal impact than just having kids be nicer to each other online," he said.

Resources available through the workshops will include topics such as online safety, privacy, cyberbullying, information literacy, copyright, and connecting with families.

The workshops are only the most recent addition to the Digital Citizenship program, which started in 2014 with an online course for school teams.

The course was created to build awareness around the power and potential risks associated with students' digital lives. It supports school site and district office leaders in planning how to roll out the curriculum in their schools. They, in turn will train teachers about the curriculum that will be integrated into classroom lessons.

By completing the course, participants will meet requirements for and be able to apply to become a Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship certified educator and school.

The ultimate goal of SDCOE's Digital Citizenship program is to support students in making safe, smart, and ethical decisions while consuming and creating in the digital world.