Should internet companies like Google be in the business of teaching children how to be good digital citizens? Or is Google not the most trustworthy source when it comes to giving advice on how to navigate the internet safely?
And if not Google, then who is best positioned to teach young people these critical 21st-century skills?
In “Google Is Teaching Children How to Act Online. Is It the Best Role Model?,” Natasha Singer and Sapna Maheshwari write about how the tech giant is positioning itself in schools as a trusted authority on digital citizenship:
Google is on a mission to teach children how to be safe online. That is the message behind “Be Internet Awesome,” a so-called digital-citizenship education program that the technology giant developed for schools.
The lessons include a cartoon game branded with Google’s logo and blue, red, yellow and green color palette. The game is meant to help students from third grade through sixth guard against schemers, hackers and other bad actors.
Google plans to reach five million schoolchildren with the program this year and has teamed up with the National Parent Teacher Association to offer related workshops to parents.
But critics say the company’s recent woes — including revelations that it was developing a censored version of its search engine for the Chinese market and had tracked the whereabouts of users who had explicitly turned off their location history — should disqualify Google from promoting itself in schools as a model of proper digital conduct.
Among other things, these critics argue, the company’s lessons give children the mistaken impression that the main threat they face online is from malicious hackers and bullies, glossing over the privacy concerns that arise when tech giants like Google itself collect users’ personal information and track their actions online.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— How did you learn how to be safe online? Did anyone teach you how to guard against schemers, hackers and other bad actors online?
— Should internet companies like Google be in the business of teaching children how to be good digital citizens?
— What do you think about Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” program? Does Google have a conflict of interest in developing and promoting this program because the company collects users’ personal information and tracks their actions online? Do you agree with David Monahan, campaign manager at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who likened the program to asking Budweiser to talk to parents and children about underage drinking? Or is Google simply creating a useful service for families and schools?
— Should all schools incorporate digital citizenship lessons into their curriculum? If yes, who should provide curriculum materials to support teachers?
— If you were a teacher, would you decide to use the “Be Internet Awesome” program in your classroom? If yes, would you have any reservations? And if no, what would you do instead? Why?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.