Cyber Savvy

This work has been “back-burnered” as I have been focusing on the bullying prevention approach.

Cyber Savvy is a student-led, positive norms approach to teach upper intermediate, middle, and high school students (grades 5 – 12) about digital safety, including effective digital decision-making, safe posting of personal information, digital relationships, social networking, cyberbullying, and digital dating/exploitation. The schools that have used this program in the pilot testing have been very pleased with the results.

Download a description of the Program.

Download a slide show that demonstrates the student data.

Review the Survey. (This is the high school version.)

Review my full set of Instructional Objectives.

Cyber Savvy fully addresses the issues schools are required to address under the Children’s Internet Protection Act. My book, Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Civility, (Corwin Press), which provides extensive, research-based background, is also available. More Information on the book.

Positive Norms Approach

Cyber Savvy makes use of an online survey to gain insight into student norms, strategies, and experience with negative incidents both as a target and a witness. One version of the survey is for grades 5 to 8 the other for grades 7 to 12. The difference is how issues related to digital dating and exploitation are handled.

Students use this data to support student-led instruction and positive norms/effective skills messaging. Safe school personnel use the data for needs assessment of digital risk. Repeat use of the survey allows the school to assess effectiveness in increasing positive norms and effective strategies and decreasing victimization and distress.

Lack of Effectiveness of Internet Safety Materials

I would encourage educators to review a new study by Lisa Jones, et. al. that assessed the effectiveness of many of the currently used Internet safety programs, including ISafe, IKeepSafe, and NetSmartz. The conclusions of this study were:

ISE content and process evaluation results indicated that the educational approach and messages of current ISE fail to incorporate critical elements of effective prevention education, including: 1) research-based messages; 2) skill-based learning objectives; 3) opportunities for youth to practice new skills; and 4) sufficient time for learning.

You can download an example of some of the fear-based messages and ineffective approaches I have seen over the years.

Free, but …

My challenge is that it is impossible to compete with this kind of free curriculum, even if it is not research-based or effective. So I have decided it is time to move on.

Therefore, I have made the decision to allow schools to use the Cyber Savvy program free of charge. All of the information necessary to implement the program is provided above. If you have a Survey Monkey account, I can forward the completed survey to you.

What I request if that if you do use this program, and consider it of value, you will reimburse Embrace Civility in the Digital Age a modest amount for such use. No obligation. Just a request. You can send me a purchase order and I will send an invoice, if desired or necessary. Contact me a: info (at) embracecivility (dot) org.


In 2000, I testified before a congressional commission, the Children’s Online Protection Act commission. Most of the other folks who testified were promoting filtering as the way to keep young people safe online.

In classic elementary teacher style, I read to the commission from Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go:

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down those not-so-good streets.

This has always been my focus when addressing these issues.

Additional Resources

The following are some additional resources from other quality groups that can be used to supplement Cyber Savvy.

Common Sense Media.
CSM has done a very credible job in this area. They are generally pretty solid on the issues. However, I do wonder about the effectiveness of their instructional approach with secondary students – the age of increasing hormones. CSM’s instructional approach is teacher-led. My perception, based on years of experience, is that the teen set is not inclined to listen to adults. Whenever I have tried to be the “sage on the stage” teaching about these issues, I have always “tripped on my toga.” So I strongly suggest modifying the delivery of lessons to approaches that involve student-directed discussions and activities – with teacher as “guide by the side.”

I love these folks. NetLiteracy was started by a teen – who is now in Yale. This summer they produced a lot of videos that can be used to support digital safety issues. I have worked with them in the background, so I think the guidance is sound.

InCtrl. Cable Impacts brings you Originally developed by Cable in the Classroom, now Cable Impacts.  InCtrl is a series of free standards-based lessons that teach key digital citizenship concepts.

The FTC’s web site is not curriculum, but provides very helpful, well-founded, resources. they have a great parent presentation and guide.

Family Online Safety Institute’s A Platform for Good.
Also not curriculum, but excellent resources with a very positive focus.

Also not curriculum, but also excellent resources with a very positive focus.