Junior high assemblies focus on digital citizenship
District 54 seventh- and eighth-grade students heard a powerful message about making good choices and keeping themselves safe online during recent all-school digital citizenship assemblies.
Eisenhower Junior High School social worker Melissa Hemzacek and Hoffman Estates Police Detective Krzysztof Kowal, who serves as the school resource officer at Eisenhower, presented the assemblies this month at all District 54 junior high schools and Lincoln Prairie.
“We know with your increased use of technology in school you have a professional digital world, and then you go home and you have a personal digital world,” Hemzacek said. “You have 24-7 access to the digital world, but that means the digital world has 24-7 access to you.”
Kowal cautioned students to be thoughtful about what they share publicly.
“Think about your profile photo and bio,” he said. “What do I learn about you? I might learn your name, sports you like, what school you go to. I might potentially learn enough to start a conversation with you as if I know you.”
Hemzacek and Kowal talked about the impact and consequences of sending inappropriate images, as well as cyberbullying.
“Many times when we see cyberbullying it starts as a joke, but that can escalate as others join in or don’t do anything to help,” Hemzacek said.
Kowal pointed out that once something is posted online, it is there in some form forever. Even Snapchats, which are “temporary” in nature, can be captured via screenshot.
“You’re going to make mistakes because you’re human, but you have control over what those mistakes are,” Hemzacek said.
They talked about the importance of the students being open with their parents about their online activity so their parents can help keep them safe. They also encouraged students to be cautious when having conversations online and to report anything potentially dangerous, suspicious or illegal to a trusted adult.
“We don’t want you to be scared wherever you go,” Kowal said. “We want you to be aware and alert. We want you to protect yourselves.”
As part of District 54’s ongoing efforts to care for the whole child, one area of focus this year is supporting our adolescent students. All District 54 junior highs and Lincoln Prairie are hosting assemblies every four to six weeks based on themes that complement District 54’s social-emotional learning curriculum. Previous assemblies have focused on kindness and anti-bullying; topics for upcoming assemblies are positive psychology and a celebration of service projects.
Students and adults interested in learning more about digital citizenship and safety can consult these resources on the Illinois Attorney General’s website.