PBS Announces WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY and Launches Digital Citizenship Initiative to Educate and Empower Young Online Explorers

PBS and Common Sense Media join forces to offer suite of online safety resources to parents and kids

Sep 27, 2010, 08:40 ET from PBS KIDS GO!

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- PBS announced today the launch of its PBS KIDS GO! Digital Citizenship Initiative to help kids and parents navigate today's digital landscape.  The initiative features a suite of new resources for kids and parents, among them a new interactive, online game WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY designed to teach kids about online privacy, how to deal with bullying and how to distinguish credible sources online.  The WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY is available free on PBSKIDSGO.org/webonauts.  Parents can find helpful supporting information on PBSPARENTS.org, including tips for kids' internet use from Common Sense Media. 

"PBSKIDS.org and PBSKIDSGO.org are often the first internet experiences for young children, attracting close to 10 million unique visitors monthly. Like learning to ride a bicycle, the first adventures should be carefully monitored by parents and assisted with training wheels before a child is ready to ride solo," said Lesli Rotenberg, SVP, Children's Media, PBS. "The PBS KIDS GO! Digital Citizenship Initiative provides the tools and support parents and kids need to feel confident they are ready to explore their online independence." 

Support for younger computer users is more important than ever as online media consumption for youth continues to rise. According to a January 2010 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the top online activities for 8-18 year-olds include social networking, playing games and visiting video sites such as YouTube.  Seventy four percent of all 7th-12th graders say they have a profile on a social networking site. The PBS KIDS GO! Digital Citizenship Initiative will arm children with web knowledge before they become immersed in it as tweens and teens.

"Parents everywhere are struggling to navigate the sea change in their children's media consumption.  Instead of challenging families to flip the switch off, initiatives like this are critical to support parents with resources that help them understand what they can expect from media and, in turn, guide their kids to become savvy users of media," said Erin Reilly, Research Director for Project New Media Literacies at USC's Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism and academic advisor to the WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY.

"Through this partnership with PBS KIDS GO!, we have an even greater opportunity to reach both kids and parents and empower them to embrace the skills they need to make safe, responsible, and respectful decisions in today's 24/7 digital world," said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.

Privacy Priorities

A Wall Street Journal investigative report published earlier this month found many children's websites install more tracking technologies on personal computers than some of the top websites for adults.  The report brings to light how sites for youngsters can track age, tastes, hobbies, shopping habits, race, likelihood to post comments and general location. It notes that privacy practices vary widely, tasking parents and other caregivers to decode sites' privacy policies.

PBSKIDS.org fared well in the report.  "Protecting the privacy of children visiting PBSKIDS.org and PBSKIDSGO.org is of utmost importance to PBS," commented Rotenberg.  "Since launching PBSKIDS.org in 1997, PBS has been a leader in online safety for children, strictly adhering to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and to our own high standards."

Resources for Kids and Parents

In the WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY, children play through a series of 12 missions adhering to the Webonauts' motto:  "Observe, Respect, Contribute."  Each mission helps children understand critical online safety issues, such as the importance of protecting passwords and maintaining privacy settings.  Other missions teach how to differentiate between credible and non-credible sources of information and how to react to bullying.

When all missions are completed, children become full-fledged Webonauts and earn their WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY Certificate, which they can proudly display in their virtual room at the WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY or print out to display at home.

Related to the launch of the WEBONAUTS INTERNET ACADEMY, PBS will offer free discussion guides and other online and printable resources to help parents and educators foster a discussion about online safety and good digital citizenship with children.  These materials will be available for free on PBSPARENTS.org

A Partnership with Common Sense Media

As part of the PBS KIDS GO! Digital Citizenship Initiative, PBS is partnering with Common Sense Media, a respected leader on kids and media issues.  Together, PBS and Common Sense Media will combine their trusted reach to build public engagement in children's digital citizenship through collaborations that include cross promotion of projects and distribution of advice and materials for children, parents and educators.  The partnership will also work to raise the visibility of digital citizenship and literacy issues through public relations and industry events.

Common Sense Media offers advice and guidance for families through its website and through robust partnerships. In addition, Common Sense Media has just launched its groundbreaking digital literacy and citizenship curriculum, beginning with a full program for middle school years which will extend to include curricula for K-12 by the 2011-2012 school year. Common Sense Media's media education program for parents has been in use in schools since Oct. 2008. These materials are available for free to schools and educators at www.commonsensemedia.org/educators.

PBS KIDS GO! offers extensive informal educational content and services for children ages 6-8, their parents and educators. Together, PBS and Common Sense Media will work to build a robust program to engage children and their families as they grow and encounter new digital tools and opportunities.


PBS KIDS GO! offers early elementary children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, online and community-based programs.  PBS is a nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's nearly 360 public television stations, serving more than 124 million people on-air and online each month.

About Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, visit: www.commonsense.org