Digital Compass by Common Sense Media is a website and free app aimed at helping middle schoolers understand the positive and negative consequences of various online behaviors.
It is structured like a choose-your-own-adventure book, and different choices take your chosen character, who lives in a fictional town called Anywhere, down both good and not-so-good paths depending on the choices they make when presented with different scenarios online.
Digital Compass bills itself as "[t]he only educational game that gives kids the freedom to explore how decisions made in their digital lives can impact their relationships and future."
Most of the time the right answer is pretty obvious, with options like "Post a 'told you so' message or Ask a teacher" but there were other scenarios that were more nuanced.
I tried it out with my tween daughter. She played along nicely at first, but then wondered what would happen if she made poor choices and purposely went with the worst options.
I confess that my first instinct was vague annoyance because she was messing around. But then the light bulb came on. Kids probably always wonder what would really happen if I did X? Now she could see for herself and explore those real world consequences in a safe environment.
Turns out, that's just what Common Sense Media expects, saying on its website, "Kids have the freedom to safely experiment with the impact of their choices while keeping their real-life digital reputations intact."
There was also a game that users could play after completing one of the scenarios, one of which focused on becoming an upstander, as opposed to a bystander. Questions on it included:
- Should you gang up on an individual?
- Is it good to create a slam page?
- Should you retaliate online?
- Should you share passwords?
- Should you put yourself in the victim's shoes?
- Should you cyberstalk?
Again, pretty obvious answers, but they all open the conversation about appropriate online behavior.
It's important that online safety and kindness be a recurring conversation. We can't expect to tell our kids important info one time and have it become automatic for them instantly. Digital Compass is one more way to open the dialogue about safely navigating the online world.
My kid thought that Digital Compass was aimed at kids younger than her oh-so-worldly 12 years, and I have to agree, but she also thought it was cute. She especially liked the game part. Even her relatively short visit to the site led to us having a good talk about protecting her online reputation and when it's important to take interactions offline.
Hopefully parents and kids of middle schoolers and even younger will check it out and keep the conversation going.
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