Amy Diggs asks the sixth graders arriving in her Integrated Studies class at Middletown Middle School one fall morning to list the rules for being a good digital citizen. The lingering hallway chatter spilling into the classroom quickly stops and the 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls shuffle to their seats, dig out a pencil, bend their heads down and write. After a few minutes, Diggs asks them to share their responses. Several hands shoot up. Diggs calls on the students one by one and each are eager to share:
“No cyber bullying.”
“Don’t be unethical; don’t lie about your age.”
“Don’t reveal personal information that can tell people where you live.”
“Don’t start drama.”
They discuss the list and the meaning of a “digital footprint.” Then Diggs asks them to stand, form a circle around the room, find a partner to discuss questions about their cyberlives, the final one being, “Do parents monitor your online activity?” The answers vary, but reveal a stubborn, troubling wall between children and their parents: “My parents try real hard to,” says one boy. “I don’t think my parents know I am on social apps; they don’t socialize online,” says another. “My dad can’t get in my phone; I password-protected it and I blocked him from my apps,” a girl states.