Garrison Forest School Celebrates its First-Ever Digital Kindness Week

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To help adolescent girls deeply understand the implications of online actions, Garrison Forest School created its first-ever Digital Kindness Week as part of National Cyber Safety Month.

We must equip students with the right tools and experiences so they can navigate their online lives.

It’s hardly news that today’s digitally fluent tweens and teens live online. Increasingly, though, the digital world’s darker side for young adults—cyberbullying, false profiles and worse—fill the headlines. Girls are particularly susceptible to the unkind behavior and falsehood that easily hides behind a screen.

To help adolescent girls deeply understand the implications of online actions, Garrison Forest School (GFS), an all-girls’ K-12 school, created its first-ever Digital Kindness Week, October 17-October 23, 2014, as part of National Cyber Safety Month. GFS’s program was developed specifically for middle school-aged girls by Lisa Fleck, Middle School counselor, and Lindsay Kelland, Middle School digital learning specialist, after extensive research about adolescent girls and digital and social media use. Components of the program include:

  •     Grade-level discussions and research on the impact social media has had on young women's lives, such as Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater principal dancer, who was bullied on social media.
  •     Daily, small group, faculty-facilitated discussions and activities on privacy, online safety, inclusiveness and cyberbullying.
  •     A social media scavenger hunt with girls tagging GFS on Instagram @garrison_forest
  •     A Middle School-wide sharing of messages of kindness using any preferred social media (Snapchat, text, email, Vine, etc.).
  •     A student-developed creation of a Digital Citizenship Pledge, which every student will sign by the end of the week.
  •     A survey of Middle School students on their social media usage
  •     A Twitter chat on Thursday, October 23 from 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. with GFS parents on the subject, led by Middle School administrators and faculty.
  •     A “Mom’s Coffee” in November on social media to discuss Digital Kindness Week and to share the survey results of social media usage in our Middle School.

Follow Digital Kindness Week and participate in the chat at #gfsdkw.

“Learning how to live, learn and work online is a life skill; it's not something we can or should ignore,” notes Renee Hawkins, GFS director of libraries and instructional technology and Independent School Educator Network board member, which is part of the International Society of Technology for Education. “We must equip students with the right tools and experiences so they can navigate their online lives.” A recent, national survey of more than 1,000 teen girls conducted by the Girl Scouts of the USA cited that many downplay their intelligence (82 percent surveyed) and kindness (76 percent surveyed) online. Additionally, 38 percent of girls report having experienced cyberbullying, according to a Cox Communications survey.

Though this is the first Digital Kindness Week at GFS, the school’s cyber citizenship curriculum begins in Kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Beginning in 4th grade, each GFS student has a Chromebook or laptop, and digital teaching and learning is extensive from the coed Preschool through the Upper School.

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Sarah Achenbach

Aja Jackson
Garrison Forest School
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