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"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"

By Christy Crawford on October 7, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5

The internet affords great power to anyone with a laptop and especially anyone with a camera and a laptop.  However, with that "power comes great responsibility".*


Have you had that discussion with your students?

A kid can grab a camera and make her voice heard among billions. YouTube claims it exceeds over two billion views a day-- "nearly double the prime time audience of all three major U.S. television networks combined." Two billion. . .   What kid needs the networks?  

A tweeter or a tech-savvy kid can start a revolution online. Twitter is credited with bringing together tens of thousands of protestors in Moldova to overthrow the oppressive government. 

Or. . .  a kid can use the internet and/or tech gadgets to repeatedly harass, humiliate or electronically ruin a classmate or peer. The suicides of Phoebe Prince,15; Alexis Skye Pilkington,17; Megan Meier,13; Ryan Halligan,13, and most recently Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi,18, highlight the evils of cyberbullying. 

Do you remember just how cruel school mates can be? Imagine the possibilities if (without accountability) students think they are anonymously texting, sexting and posting online.  

Parents and teachers need to harness digital power.  Although people over the age of 30 did not grow up with the kind of technology available today; that does not negate our responsibility to navigate the electronic jungle that our children play in every day. For certain, it does not negate our responsibility to discuss and train children on the proper use of digital tools.

When is it time to start?  First grade is a wonderful time to begin training young people to protect themselves online, make them empathetic digital citizens and ad-savvy surfers.  By third grade, most of my students are bombarded with online ads in the games they play.  These eight-year-olds are chatting away in Club Penguin and posting pictures or commenting on an older sibling's MySpace or Facebook page. Reports of cyberbullying often begin in third grade.

              Harness the WWW (Wild Wild West) 

    A Fifth Grader's Letter To Parents 1. Survey your students and then begin 21st century         family/school discussions with student letters or e-mails to         parents.  Click the letter to read a note from one of my         10-year-old students to his family.                      

    2. Invite parents to school for a digital "show and tell" . Parents         listen and learn as students become teachers, guiding them         through the hottest sites and digital gadgets for tweens and         teens.

    3.  Check out Cybersmart.org for some of the best lessons on           using digital media in a safe, smart and responsible           manner. The site has FREE K-12 curriculum on everything           from cyberbullying to preventing plagiarism. Cybersmart also offers home connections so students and parents will continue the conversation. Netsmartz.org and iKeepsafe.org offer more great content. (Elementary school students will love movies starring iKeepsafe's FauxPaw the Techno Cat.)   

        4. Get top tips on stopping cyberbullying and keep up with the latest information             at Wiredsafety.com and the Cyberbullying Research Center 

Join the conversation to protect our youth. Share your favorite digital citizen safety site here or simply comment.

Liberation used to come with a driver’s license, chance to work, or voting ballot; but now liberation is achieved via access to the web. It is our duty to become familiar with digital tools in order to act as our children’s technology tour guides -- creating the rules and boundaries for the voyages our young explorers embark on daily. 


*The quote "With great power, comes great responsibility" has been loosely attributed to Luke 12:48, paraphrased in the speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and most recently used in the works of the amazing Stan Lee


Comments (10)


Anonymity is one of my biggest problems with the WWW. As crazy as I am about technology, I realize it has allowed us to loose some social graces, e.g. reading body language, maintaing eye contact with speakers, etc. And we have the freedom to speak without face-to-face retribution...not good. Kevin, thank you for your comments-- you provided another great reminder that teaching technology includes substantive discourse on the social and emotional effects of digital ways to communicate.

WWW = wild, wild west, that is clever and so true. The internet provides a certain amount of anonymity for people. People can say what they what,no matter how harsh or revelent and then hide behind a screen name that they made up without having to take accoutabilty for what they say. How do we approach this new style of bullying? Can we tackle it the same way we would in a classroom or school or at home? The anonymity of the interent seems to really empower people. Just read comments soome people post after a article on CNN.com. You are all right, this is a new frontier that is still being explored.


Thank you!! So nice to hear from you!!! Honestly, I am dumbfounded by the stuff kids AND adults post. School buylling is a totally different game now! We ALL have to jump on curbing crazy digital acts.


I think its great that people are talking and coming up with solutions for cyberbullying. Its unfortunate that students are using technology as an outlet to embarrass their peers. Which in turn has numerous consequences. Great tips and keep on blogging. :D

Although it is difficult to muster sympathy for cyberbullies, I do believe that children do things that seem like good ideas when the only people around them are peers who also fail to recognize their own problematic behavior as wrong.

We need to find ways to impress upon our young students that the victim in these cases isn't the only one damaged. The young perpetrators themselves and their families also find their lives changed immeasurably. Trusted, experienced, adult guides can help children avoid tragic decisions in their real-world lives, as well as in their cyber lives.

Hi Christy, When I heard about Tyler's suicide my heart sank. I can't imagine the humiliation he felt and the hopelessness that took over. The kids who posted that video didn't understand (at that age) the possible consequences??!?

Thanks for guiding us through the Wild Wild West.

=,( Danielle

Mitch or Mr. Wordsmith,

Thank you for the new term! And I agree safety tips should be provided to protect both children AND their parents. Holding a Cyberspace Adult Education Night is yet another wonderful way to get parents running to school to talk to educators about technology! Great idea!


It is not a surprise that our kids fall prey to digital "net-itors" (Am I the first to use that term?).

Many adults freely put all kinds of personal information into the electronic sphere just to buy products, enter contests, or join social media groups. Some even get involved in bogus Internet get-rich-quick schemes.

Adults who don't understand cybersafety can't adequately protect their children. While I agree heartily that we have responsibility to help our students navigate cyberspace, I believe that it is also necessary that we educate adults--children's families and our fellow educators about the perils of life in/on the WWW (wild, wild west).

"Lord Of The Flies" is right! We need to be explicit with kids about what is acceptable online AND in person. Kids are with us 6 hours a day or more-- perfect opportunity to practice manners, show empathy and respect for each other. Did you see Beth Newingham's bucket filler post? Pls click and paste, http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/04/are-your-students-bucket-fillers.html.

Acts of kindness are the perfect thing to blog about. When kids write two or three simple sentences about a respectful or kind digital citizen, it makes both parties feel great and sets the STANDARD for netiquette. We take a picture of both parties and post it along with their comments.

Danielle, what grade do you teach? Please keep in touch. I would love to know what works for your students.

Thanks for your kind comments!


Good post! I feel like my kids are living out scenes from "Lord Of The Flies" when they leave the classroom...I need more tips

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