Program Aims to Teach Local Students How to Be ‘better Digital Citizens'

TAKOMA PARK, Md. — Since getting instruction in digital citizenship at school, 13-year-old Robert Padmore says he has learned a number of important lessons.

“Things that you post online never go away.”

Now, whenever he’s on social media, that’s in the back of his mind.

Padmore, an eighth grader at Takoma Park Middle School, gave a presentation on how the Common Sense Education curriculum on digital citizenship has already made an impact since its introduction at his school.

At a gathering of school officials during Digital Citizenship Week, Padmore referred to the lessons in the curriculum, saying, “Students at Takoma Park Middle school have been more respectful of each other since they have engaged in these lessons.”

Padmore says as the school system expands the program, it will make a big difference and encourage students throughout the county “to be safer, nicer and better digital citizens.”

The program has been instituted in the county’s middle schools and will be expanded to include all grades over the next three years. Superintendent Jack Smith says middle school students were targeted for the first rollout, because, as he explained, “They have the most autonomy and the least experience with the digital world.”

Smith says there has been no cost to the school system. He says the material and training from Common Sense Education “has been provided as a service to the community” thanks to a grant from the Delaney Family Fund. That fund is led by Congressman John Delaney and his wife, April McClain-Delaney, who serves as the Washington director for Common Sense Media.

Delaney, who’s currently running for re-election to his House seat, appeared with his wife at Takoma Park Middle School, but said the grant is not tied to politics in any way. Explaining his role at Wednesday’s event, Delaney said, “I’m more in the category of a proud and supportive spouse.”

McClain-Delaney, a communications attorney, says she’s wanted to bring digital literacy programs into the school system for years.

She says digital learning allows students to explore the world in new and exciting ways, but added, “We all want to avoid those digital pitfalls that we hear about every day.”

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