When my friend Jake wakes up in the morning he immediately grabs his iPhone and checks Facebook. How common is that? Do you do it? Is waking up and checking Facebook healthy?
What is the ideal relationship between humans and technology? We are still figuring that out, but some things are clear:
- Social media is the “junk food” of the internet.
- We must take steps to ensure the security of our data and our online privacy.
- The internet makes large-scale scams easier than ever before.
These are not widely known. Jake and his phone, social media addiction, and people getting fooled by internet scams are just some examples that show that a majority of Americans do not understand some of the basic tenets of a healthy digital life.
Most US high schools require health class for graduation (some history). It teaches:
- Systems of the body
- Nutrition and fitness
- Safe use or avoidance of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
- Reproductive health
- CPR and first aid
These are core, foundational topics that any future adult must know. In a society where everyone uses smartphones and is always on the internet, are technology health topics not equally important?
I propose creating a new course, offered in parallel with the traditional health class. DigitalHealth Class wil teach basic skills and knowledge needed in a digital world. Basic modules would cover:
- Basic tenets of online security (like how HTTPS/SSL works)
- Passwords and password managers
- Common scams (phishing, etc) and how to avoid them
- How to identify trustworthy websites
- Smart-phone settings (e.g. prevent location access)
- Browser settings (Cookies, etc)
- Ad blockers
- Digital wellness
- What aspects of the internet are “good for you”?
- Controlling your attention
- How and where do advertisers exert influence
- Digital independence
- Basic scripting (python)
- Data formats (txt, markdown, XML, RSS, etc)
Since this is a new curriculum, most adults (especially those currently aged 50+) haven’t learned these valuable skills and lessons. So in addition to teaching this in high schools, this course could also be taught to a wider audience through libraries, senior centers, or even online.
My friend Jake has recently started exercising regularly and is looking physically great and healthy. After taking DigitalHealth Class, hopefully he’ll start making equally healthy choices in his digital life.
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