Google announced today it’s updating and expanding its digital safety and citizenship curriculum called Be Internet Awesome, which is aimed at helping school-aged children learn to navigate the internet responsibly. First introduced four years ago, the curriculum now reaches 30 countries and millions of kids, says Google. In the update rolling out today, Google has added nearly a dozen more lessons for parents and educators that tackle areas like online gaming, search engines, video consumption, online empathy, cyberbullying and more.
The company says it had commissioned the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center to evaluate its existing program, which had last received a significant update back in 2019, when it added lessons that focused on teaching kids to spot disinformation and fake news.
The review found that program did help children in areas like dealing with cyberbullying, online civility and website safety, but recommended improvements in other areas.
Google then partnered with online safety experts like Committee for Children and The Net Safety Collaborative to revise its teaching materials. As a result, it now has lessons tailored to specific age groups and grade levels, and has expanded its array of subjects and set of family resources.
The new lessons include guidance around online gaming, search engines and video consumption, as well as social-emotional learning lessons aimed at helping students address cyberbullying and online harassment.
For example, some of the new lessons discuss search media literacy — meaning, learning how to use search engines like Google’s and evaluating the links and results it returns, as a part of an update to the program’s existing media literacy materials.
Other lessons address issues like practicing empathy online, showing kindness, as well as what to do when you see something upsetting or inappropriate, including cyberbullying.
Concepts related to online gaming are weaved into the new lessons, too, as, today, kids have a lot of their social interactions in online games which often feature ways to interact with other players in real-time and chat.
Here, kids are presented with ideas related to being able to verify an online gamer’s identity — are they really another kid, for example? The materials also explain what sort of private information should not be shared with people online.
Among the new family resources, the updated curriculum now points parents to the recently launched online hub, families.google, which offers a number of tips and information about tools to help families manage their tech usage.
For example, Google updated its Family Link app that lets parents set controls around what apps can be used and when, and view activity reports on screen time usage. It also rolled out parental control features on YouTube earlier this year, aimed at families with tweens and teens who are too old for a YouTube Kids account, but still too young for an entirely unsupervised experience.