ACPS Partner and Volunteer Highlight: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is the nation’s leading nonprofit in supporting families as they navigate the digital world. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) utilizes the organization’s Digital Citizenship curriculum, designed for K-12 schools to empower students to be digital citizens. This month, ACPS is focusing on our partnership with Common Sense Media and other resources as we observe National Bullying Prevention Month and Digital Citizenship Week (Oct. 16-20, 2023).
Common Sense Media has been at the forefront of providing trustworthy information, education and an independent voice since 2003, assisting families in understanding the media’s potential to shape cultural values, expand access to learning and tackle tricky topics. In an effort to help families address technology concerns, Common Sense Media gives parents and guardians the tools they need to make informed choices. It provides ratings of movies, television programming, books, games, podcasts and applications by user age. Common Sense Media also offers a growing catalog of Spanish-language movies and TV shows, as well as ratings of movies with authentic and diverse characters. It also provides tips for families on addressing digital media concerns to include screen time and cell phone usage.
During Digital Citizenship Week, Common Sense Media and ACPS have made available a family engagement toolkit to support healthy technology use at school and home. The toolkit includes conversation starters, video series and workshops. The nonprofit has named ACPS a Common Sense Recognized District for the division’s digital citizenship work in our schools.
ACPS Director of Instructional Technology Dr. Emily Dillard added that nothing can replace the role of teachers in monitoring and supervising students, whether using Chromebooks or other materials. She says the role of the teacher is invaluable, recognizing that high-quality instruction and an engaging classroom environment help students stay on task.
ACPS also provides access to Hapara for classroom management of Chromebooks. Hapara allows teachers to have a live view of the sites being accessed by students during class time. It also provides teachers the ability to push “focus” sites to students.
ACPS has multiple 24/7 services that support students and families as they navigate the internet. One resource is Securly, a content filter on ACPS devices. “ACPS is committed to ensuring students are as safe as possible when using school-issued Chromebooks and accessing the internet,” Dr. Dillard said. “One way we keep students safe is through the implementation of a content filter, Securly, that filters inappropriate content on our devices.”
Assisting parents in monitoring their student's online activity outside of school, ACPS provides parents and guardians access to the Securly parent portal. Through this portal, parents and guardians can view their students' keyword searches, sites visited and videos watched. Parents and guardians can also add additional restrictions to categories such as social media and specific sites. While Securly serves as a content portal, ACPS also uses its 24/7 monitoring service to identify potential cyberbullying, self-harm sites and violence.
An additional option to report bullying, cyberbullying or other incidents that may affect student safety and well-being is the ACPS Anonymous Reporting System which supports multiple languages. This is available to all students, staff, families and community members.
ACPS uses a variety of means, including employing the resources provided by Common Sense Media, to keep students safe as they access information online. During Digital Citizenship Week and throughout the year, the school division stresses the importance of respect, resilience, responsibility and reasoning to create a safer and more positive online environment for all.