Many of the St. Michael middle-school students said they've already had "the talk" with their parents — not about the birds and bees, but instead the online do's and don'ts.
"By the time I was 7, my parents were telling me what you do online," said eighth-grader J.J. Adler, 14.
"I got the talk when I was 8," added classmate Douglas Keller.
"These guys have a really good understanding of what's out there and how the Internet has two sides, the good side and the evil side," Holohan said. "They understand that what they say and what they put out there can't be taken away. Once it's been said, you've crossed that boundary. It's like a living transcript."
Richards and his law school colleagues hope to refine and expand the program into public school systems, perhaps as soon as next year. Given the rapid pace of technological change, it promises to be an ever-evolving process.
"By the time you put together a curriculum, it's out of date," he said. "Kids in middle school haven't heard of (the once popular music sharing website) Myspace. They aren't paying attention to PowerPoints and they're not using Facebook anymore."
Peter Lang, a St. Michael music teacher, compared the school's role in teaching privacy to the safety lessons required for culinary students using sharp knives or driver's education pupils learning traffic laws before getting behind the wheel.
"As educators, we have a great responsibility to teach digital citizenship," he said. "Unlimited access to cellphones is like handing them the keys to the car and saying, 'Good luck.'"
Online: Fordham University privacy education, http://law.fordham.edu/privacyeducators
Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier
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