6th grade boys teach ‘digital citizenship’ to 4th graders at Buckley School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) – Buckley School on the Upper East Side has introduced a new class in which 6th grade boys teach 4th graders how to surf the internet safely.

With so many games available online as well as so many other forms of entertainment, teaching children what is called “digital citizenship” is more important than ever.

I went to Buckley when I was a kid, and that’s where I learned the difference between right and wrong. However, determining the line between these two is much more complicated in the digital age.

The boys leading the class used two games that look very similar as an example.

Each involves basketball and has “NBA” in the title, but one of these apps is safe, and the other is not!

The bad, “kept forcing me to try and buy this thing called virtual currency,” said 6th grader Alston Smith, “which is a way to spend your money on only good currency in this game”.

Alston shows a 4th grader, Aden Smith (no relation), how best to navigate an Internet that can be truly treacherous.

“Some apps just aren’t good for you,” Alston said. “And, sometimes you get too addicted, and sometimes the apps just aren’t age-appropriate.”

Teacher Willie Dominguez asked for an example to help students determine what was appropriate.

Matteo Molinari, who is in 4th grade, urged us to watch a game’s rating.

“If it says 15+, there’s probably swearing and gun violence,” Molinari said.

Dr. Julie King, who runs this course, wrote her doctoral thesis on how boys engage online.

“One piece that is often missed is raising children’s voices,” Dr. King said. “And, we all know that kids are much more interested in listening to other kids.”

This was very evident during our visit to the Buckley School Library.

“Do we want to listen to my friends? Or do I want to listen to my teacher? 6th grader Cruz Natori said. “I will choose my friends because I probably like them more.”

This may be hard for parents to hear, but this peer-to-peer counseling comes at a crucial age.

“Fourth graders are often getting ready to dip their toes into more unsupervised online activities,” Dr. King said, “and Grade 6 boys are only a few years ahead, but these are really important formative years online.”

Plus, today’s kids know more about life online than their parents who grew up in a time before technology became so dominant in our lives.

Dr King said boys and girls today “are more savvy and braver and more vulnerable and more connected, I think even adults realize that”.

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