The Role of Familia in Digital Citizenship and Navigating Remote Learning

By: Dr. Vanessa Monterosa

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In the recent circumstances of navigating COVID-19, families have not only struggled with access to technology, but also having conversations about how to use technology in meaningful, proactive ways. For many families across the nation, schools have made their best attempt at bridging the digital divide by providing digital tools and resources to keep students learning and engaged virtually. However, where are the guides and supports to help families integrate these tools in rigorous, effective ways that support learning?

What families need now more than ever is support on talking about digital citizenship. Digital citizenship is focused on the skills and dispositions to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our increasingly digital world. With remote learning serving as a reality for millions of students across our schools, many students are also turning to social media to stay connected with their peers. Engaging in these digital spaces also has critical implications for their social and emotional learning, helping students foster purposeful, healthy interactions online. For example, the perceived anonymity of engaging online can often encourage harmful behavior. Facilitating conversations with students about the perceptions of digital privacy, the implications of cyberbullying, and the importance of kindness and empathy online are key strategies to creating safe learning spaces. More importantly, it cultivates model digital citizens who participate online in inclusive, informed, and engaged ways. 

The work of digital citizenship has traditionally lived in classrooms and has been supported by district leaders, where teachers help students navigate conversations about privacy, safety, and security. School districts put policies in place to support the development of media and digitally literate students, such as Responsible Use Policies or Social Media Policies to guide engagement and community online.  But where is the family’s role in supporting this work?

Common Sense Media, a leading national organization on media and digital literacy, supports educators and families in having these critical conversations. Tech Balance is a recent initiative designed as a free, bilingual text message program where parents can receive weekly tips and advice on how to talk to their children about media and digital literacy, especially in a remote learning environment. Topics include media consumption, which centers on identifying high-quality media content for your children, as well as screen time, which focuses on the quality of your child’s time online versus the quantity of hours spent on a device.

Engaging parents about their media and technology habits at home can often be challenging, especially when they see their children juggling multiple screens and digital platforms throughout the day. However, it is important for educators to work with parents as partners in digital citizenship, empowering them to have meaningful media conversations with their children. 

One key strategy is inviting parents to visualize the balance of family time across shared activities that reflect their family values. One activity to help parents think about this is drawing a circle on a blank sheet of paper and coloring it like a pie chart, accounting for the family activities that embody their daily lives. As parents begin to color in their chart, considering activities such as playtime, family TV time, Facetiming with relatives, etc., families begin to see how they might be able to continually balance and shape their time and technology use into meaningful interactions and engagement.

To learn more about how to best support your child in navigating digital apps and tools as a parent or how to support families as an educator, please join us on Wednesday, July 29 for a complimentary webinar, “TechBalance: Supporting Latinx Families with Common Sense Resources,” facilitated by Dr. Vanessa Monterosa, Latino for Education’s EdCentro Los Angeles Captain, and Rocío López, Manager of Community Partnerships for Common Sense Latino. 

EdCentro is Latinos for Education’s new national social platform that keeps Latino educators connected coast to coast. Signing up for a membership is easy, free and open to all Latinx educators, administrators, parents and community members.  Please visit to learn more and sign up today.


About Dr. Vanessa Monterosa
Dr. Vanessa Monterosa is a digital strategy and communications expert supporting the system-level implementation of digital citizenship across Los Angeles Unified– the nation’s second largest school district. Her superpower rests in synthesizing research, policy, and practice to design and amplify programs grounded in praxis. Since joining the L.A. Unified team in 2014 via Education Pioneers, she co-authored the District’s 1st Social Media Policy for Students in addition to designing and implementing district-wide strategic instructional technology programs. Most recently, Dr. Monterosa has served as the Latinos for Education Los Angeles Regional Captain, responsible for cultivating and connecting Latinx educators across southern California via EdCentro.