Muscle Shoals High School

Muscle Shoals High School Guidance Counselor Robyn Garrett talks to students about internet safety as part of the school's yearlong quest for Common Sense certification. [COURTESY PHOTO]

MUSCLE SHOALS — The cyber safety training students are receiving at Muscle Shoals High School has been recognized by the Common Sense Media organization, a nonprofit dedicated to educating students and communities on safety with technology in today's digital world.

The school earned its Common Sense certification after a year-long process that involved teaching students, as well as their families, how to use technology responsibly.

Principal Chad Holden called the information provided by Common Sense Media "must-know, vital information for all communities."

Holden said the program provided resources for teachers in his school to embed sound cyber safety strategies into their classwork.

But the program had another major component — community outreach.

"It's the theory that the world is changing fast and kids tend to know what parents don't. Adults have to keep up with the trends we're seeing in technology, the good and bad," Holden said. 

The information Common Sense provided was the catalyst for the school's efforts to educate the public on the perils of plagiarism, loss of privacy and cyberbullying. 

Holden shared information through newsletters, professional development and through community-wide programs.

"The community outreach component is big," he said. "We're making this an annual event, whereby we share expert information with everyone who'll listen."

This year's program will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Muscle Shoals High School auditorium. Lauderdale Assistant District Attorney Angie Hamilton and Colbert Assistant District Attorney Angela Hulsey will be guest speakers.

"We're opening this up to the general public because we believe in it so strongly," Holden said. "As for having this certification, it mainly speaks to our investment in, and commitment to, student safety as well as educating families."

Holden said when he began researching Common Sense Media's program and resources in early 2017, there were no high schools yet certified. That's now changed. 

Biology teacher Holly Brooks said the merit of the program speaks for itself every time a student comes to the realization that "things on the internet aren't exactly as portrayed."

Implementing the information in her classes has served to get students talking, thinking critically about everything from bio technology to cyberbullying.

"My classes do projects where we use this information and the students learn from it," Brooks said.

She added the Common Sense information has helped engage students in new ways and has given them fresh perspectives.

Likewise, she said the information has helped teachers better understand what students are being exposed to.

"Our job is to help them combat these issues by giving them the tools to do it," Brooks said. "Opening up the conversation is a great place to start."

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