Muddling through the blogosphere

Digital Citizenship Summit – Thank you, Yahoo!


Yahoo Safely Digital Citizenship Summit

Besides the really cool Yahoo book bag and equally cool Yahoo lunch bag, what else was great about the 5th Annual Digital Citizenship Summit? Everything, including:

  • The panel of speakers: Experts from Project Cornerstone,, Common Sense Media, iKeepSafe, NetSmartz, Connect Safely, and attorney Charles Leitch. Throughout the day, this outstanding team guided whole group and small group discussions on how to successfully implement the elements of the “Five Building Blocks for Digital Citizenship:”
    1. Build a culture of ethics and safety
    2. Implement a network of support and leadership
    3. Align policies and procedures
    4. Provide professional development
    5. Integrate student curriculum for safety and ethics
  • The highly enthusiastic, participatory group of participants
  • Yahool headquarters

The speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions affirmed much of the digital citizenship work I’ve been doing over the past few years through my district’s Internet Safety Task Force. But one speaker caused me to rethink our approach to teaching about cyberbullying.  Larry Magid highly suggested, and backed it with the research, that we approach cyberbullying as a problem rather than an epidemic. Larry is co-director of and founder of  He is also the technology analyst for CBS News and writes for CNET News, Huffington Post and the San Jose Mercury News. Along with Anne Collier, he is co-author of A Parents’ Guide to Facebook and MySpace Unraveled.

Much like the “stranger danger” predator panic of 2004-2006, the media is now hyping big time incidents of cyberbullying.  The reality is that far more kids are bullied offline than online.  Larry pointed out the dangers of exaggeration, which can destroy credibility, can cause “boomeranger effect,”  and can cause people to believe that behaviors are “normal.”  His recommendation is to stop the  “fear messaging” and to emphasize the positive.

People, especially youth, can benefit from positive images and role models. Creating a culture of respect actually can lead to respect. Respectful behavior truly is normal.  Most kids do not bully.

Use ‘positive norming,’ such as the Craig, Perkins 2008 – Strength in Numbers report – 80% of Crystal Lake 6-8th grade students say students should not tease in a mean way, call others hurtful names, or spread unkind stories about other students.”

I’m hoping to go live with Larry’s “positive norming” concept at several of our middle schools by having students participate in Nancy Willard’s Cyberbullying Survey. But that’s a topic for another post;-)

I’ll end this post with a huge thank you to the Yahoo Safely team for hosting the Digital Citizenship Summit and to Diana Paradise for being the guiding light of the event – and with a closing question: What if districts approached the topic of cyberbullying as a problem, not and epidemic?


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