The march of technology has changed the way we communicate. Young people especially are seeing the benefits, and the dangers of living their lives online. Now the state is introducing a new effort to help students navigate some of the difficult issues raised by the digital revolution.
This week, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and Democratic Senator Mark Warner came together in Richmond for the debut of My Digital Life, an interactive online program for 8th and 9th graders in Virginia.
"One of the best things that we can do," McDonnell said at the Thursday news conference, "is to give young people the no-nonsense pros and cons about internet and cyber literacy."
The new program was developed by the education technology company EverFi Incorporated. Another major internet company in northern Virginia, Neustar Incorporated, is making the program available for free to any school system in Virginia that wants it.
My Digital Life is designed to help young people use technology in a safe and responsible way.
Tom Davidson is the Chief Executive Officer of EverFi. "The scribble on the bathroom walls or the notes passed in the classroom, those things have gone viral now," Davidson said at the news conference, "and what a couple of people used to see now many thousands of people can see."
"What you say and do on the internet," Warner added, "can and will come back to bite you at some point."
My Digital Life targets a variety of issues including cyber bullying, posting sensitive personal information online, and texting while driving. Sponsors say they also hope it will encourage students to pursue careers in science and technology.
"So for us, this is not just about digital literacy," said Neustar President and CEO Lisa Hook. "It's not just about making children feel safe on the internet, but it's teaching them how to conduct business on the internet, how to set up a business, how to feel comfortable in a digital world.... The more folks we get into science, technology, education and math, the happier we'll be."