Yonah Kirschner

Confronting Sinat Chinam: Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship

The rabbis of the Talmud tell us that the Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam [baseless hatred] (Yoma 9). On Tisha B’Av, we mourn the destruction of the Temple, as well as other tragedies in Jewish history, and are also charged with ridding ourselves of sinat chinam.

In schools today, though students may not necessarily say hurtful words to their peers, the anonymity and distance that the Internet provides can make it a space where sinat chinam and bullying thrive. How do we help our students understand the meaning of baseless hatred and how to prevent it? In honor of upcoming Tisha B’Av, take an opportunity to check out these resources, which you can use next year to teach students about the dangers of sinat chinam in the digital space and how they can confront cyber bullying and promote kindness and empathy online.

Digital Citizenship Resources from Common Sense Education
One of the most extensive collections of educational materials on digital citizenship, Common Sense offers a K-12 digital citizenship program, including 65 grade-differentiated lesson plans. There are games to teach Internet safety and how to make smart choices when online. You’ll especially want to take a look at the Anti-Cyberbullying Toolkit, which has resources for teachers, students, and families. For project inspiration, check out the Classroom Posters and then have students create their own. Common Sense also has digital citizenship playlists on YouTube with videos specifically geared toward elementarymiddle, and high school students. Topics range from the power of words to digital footprints to oversharing online.

Cyberbullying Resources from
Here you’ll find two videos. One contains an overview about cyberbullying for teachers. The other video is for students and features a high schooler talking about how he and his friends took action to prevent bullying. It’s a powerful video that will spark conversation about bullying and how your students can show empathy and create a positive environment in-person and online.

Cyberbully the Movie
This ABC Family film tells the story of teenage girl Taylor Hillridge, who is bullied online by her classmates and provides a plethora of discussion material for later middle school and high school students. You can show the entire film to your class, or ask students to view it at home and create questions for them to answer in your Learning Management System. If you watch the film as a class, you could have the students use a backchannel to express their thoughts and feelings in real-time while watching the film. *Important note for teachers: The film depicts an attempted suicide.

Digital Citizenship Resources from BrainPOP
This dashboard has 16 modules on various topics such as information privacy, cyberbullying, digital etiquette, and online safety. Each module has a number of interactive elements to engage students, including a video, a quiz, games, activities, a primary source, and more. For younger students, BrainPop Jr. has a great video about bullying that also comes with similar interactive elements to reinforce the main lessons. These BrainPop resources would work especially well in a blended learning classroom where students work on the modules during station rotations.

13 Games That Teach Empathy from Common Sense Education
If you want to focus on teaching empathy, these games are a great way to introduce the topic in a fun and engaging way. Elementary school students can learn about conflict resolution, making good choices, and the emotions behind facial expressions. Older students will be able to learn about the experience of poverty and hunger as well as political instability and violence.

Sesame Street Video on Empathy
Actor Mark Ruffalo and the character Murray talk about the meaning of the word “empathy.” The video is relatively short and a good way to introduce the topic in an early childhood classroom. Ruffalo presents different situations to evoke empathy from Murray and then explains that empathy is understanding how another person feels.

What is Empathy? Video
Students from a public school in New York City explain what empathy means to them. This video can be an introduction to your unit on digital citizenship. It can also inspire your students to create their own videos about how to interact with others both in-person and online. Teachers can also embed the video into their Learning Management System or another tool (such as PlayPosit) that allows you to pause the video and ask questions to gauge student comprehension.

Learn more about digital citizenship and educational technology from DigitalJLearning Network.

Yonah Kirschner, former Project Manager, Digital Content and Communications at The Jewish Education Project.

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