Kids are increasingly turning to social networks and the online world for knowledge, but educators warn that kids need guidance as they try to learn where the line is between proper and irresponsible behavior. Teachers and administrators say they've seen too often that bad behavior online has consequences. The most recent example has been tied to the death of a Saratoga High school student.
"Every year, we see incidents of cyber-bullying and incidents where it's sort of after the fact, sort of like reactionary rather than being pro-active and I think that's what's more important. We need to be more pro-active in handling the students," says fifth-grade teacher Derrall Garrison.
Experts in online safety, social media, and law enforcement call it "digital citizenship." They're helping educators weave responsibility and positive behavior into the curriculum throughout the school year.
"We're not just looking at this as a one-time event, the first day of school, we're going to talk about digital citizenship… We want to make sure that we're talking about it throughout the school year so it really becomes part of the culture," says Andrew Schwab with the Berryessa Union School District.
Leaders in the field say parents play a vital role too. Two organizations, "A Platform for Good" and the "Family Online Safety Institute," encourage parents and children to sign cards that spell out rules that come with getting a cell phone, tablet, or smartphone.
Chief Technology Officer at the Santa Clara County Office of Education Kelly Calhoun says kids are still developing and need adult guidance. "It's incredibly important to use those opportunities to bring the technology into the conversation and bring that responsibility along for them as they develop."
And, focus groups done by Microsoft indicate that kids welcome adults engaging with them online. "What the kids told us that they wanted to see was their parents and their grandparents getting on the text, getting on Facebook, and just doing it the right way. Not to be uncool about it, but they wanted them engaged and they wanted those conversations," explained Microsoft Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere.
Safety experts say they'd like to see good online behavior praised and shared so that everyone will start to emulate them.