Digital Citizenship: Elements, Lessons, and Importance

Get started with the basics of digital citienship
Contributed By

Kristen Cole

Education Writer

Digital Citizenship: Elements, Lessons, and Importance

Posted in Evolving Ed | June 07, 2019

According to Digital Citizenship, digital citizenship is “how we should act when we are using digital tools, interacting with others online, and what should be taught to help the next generation be better stewards of this technology.” For schools and teachers, it is what and how we teach our students to interact with the online world. Devices like tablets and laptops are in many school districts, so teachers have the perfect opportunity to educate students about the digital world around them and how to be a good digital citizen.

9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

There are 9 elements to address when discussing and teaching digital citizenship. These are pillars of knowledge that teachers, administrators, parents, and students need to be aware of as technology becomes more and more available to students.

  1. Access refers to the amount of access students have to technology. Not every child will have a personal device or internet at home, so schools should be aware of this as they require students to use more technology.
  2. Commerce refers to the buying and selling of items online. These could be actual items or expertise through courses. This is an important aspect to share with parents and students because it can affect their future job choices.
  3. Community and Collaboration includes digital relationships. Teaching students how to appropriately interact on the internet is a huge part of digital citizenship.
  4. Etiquette covers the rules of conduct when interacting with the digital world. Knowing the rules before jumping online helps students be more aware of their digital footprint.
  5. Fluency or literacy refers to the process of using technology and its benefits. Students make better decisions when they are online if they are digitally fluent. This also refers to fact-checking and being able to determine fact from fiction when reading an online source.
  6. Health and Welfare looks at the physical and psychological side of technology. Is there such a thing as too much screen time? This aspect also covers cyber bullying and helping students be aware of what they say and post online.
  7. Law consists of the responsibility of using technology. Laws are there to protect the people who use devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets. These laws also govern topics like cyberbullying and sexting topics.
  8. Rights and Responsibilities refers to the freedoms that people have in the digital world as well as the real world. Everyone is entitled to their own ideas and opinions, but helping students use technology responsibly is a huge part of digital citizenship so that they can have continued access to it.
  9. Security and Privacy consists of not only protecting technology from viruses and other “bugs” that threaten the use of a piece of technology, but also protecting personal information. Teaching students to discern fraudulent websites and users is a huge key to keeping them safe.

These 9 elements cover all aspects of digital citizenship. Teaching these different aspects to students, and even parents, can help everyone have a positive and safe interaction with the digital world.

Why is digital citizenship important?

Children now have access to personal devices before they leave elementary school. Schools are also giving students technology to use or requiring them to bring their own device to use for school purposes. It is important to teach students how to use their technology appropriately so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on their future.

There are consequences to all of our actions, including digital ones. Students need to know and understand these so they can make good choices. The use of social media has skyrocketed. Students now live their lives digitally. Some of them post about every aspect of their lives directly to social media using Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and even Tik Tok, which is a short video involving music that they can record.

Employers now check social media sites, including Facebook, to see what kind of person they are hiring during the interview process. Teaching children today the do’s and don’ts of posting information and photographs online is beneficial for their future.

Cyberbullying is using technology to badger another person via social media, texting, and personal messages like direct messages (DM) and email. While bullying has been an issue in schools for a long time, cyberbullying is on the rise. Many children find it easier to be cruel to others digitally because there is a disconnect in the relationship with that person. The bully doesn’t have to look at the victim anymore. They can post a message and be done with it. Teaching students how to handle cyberbullying and how to avoid it is crucial to their mental well-being and safety.

Digital Citizenship for Students

Digital citizenship for students is all about teaching them how to be good stewards of the digital world. As probably the highest priority is teaching them to protect themselves. This means showing them the difference between their personal and public life. Teach them what an appropriate photo to post is. How to respond to a friend when they are angry, and it’s probably not posting on social media about it. Not everything that happens to them needs to be published online, so teaching them what should and shouldn’t be posted is very beneficial.

Students also need to learn about digital relationships. The internet is a great place to meet new people. Students can interact with favorite authors and follow their favorite celebrities. It can also be a dangerous world where people who seek to harm them can exist. Children are usually trusting, so teaching them how to discern good relationships versus bad relationships online is very important, even from a young age.

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A great acronym for students to use and even see posted in classrooms and hallways around school is “THINK”. Before they post something online, whether it is information, a photo, or a post of any kind, they should ask themselves if it is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. If the answer to any of the questions is no, then they probably shouldn’t post or share the information. Is it kind to post about how a friend hurt your feelings? Is it necessary for someone to ask where you live? Is it inspiring to post a motivational picture? Many students think with their emotions, so if teachers and other staff can help them stop and think about their actions before the student does something rash, it can be very beneficial to the student. That’s why signs like the image can be posted all through the school to remind students to make wise choices in what they share with the digital world.

Digital Citizenship for Teachers

Digital citizenship for teachers starts with the teachers themselves. They need to be educated on what digital citizenship is, why it is important, and how to address it with students and parents. Having professional development over digital citizenship to make sure all staff is knowledgeable about this topic is a great place to start.

Another asset to use and even educate is parents. Many times parents aren’t even aware of how to teach their children how to be good stewards of the digital world and information. Schools can host informational nights where parents can learn more about it and how to help their children at home. This is also a great way to get families on board with teaching digital citizenship to students. If the parents find the information important as well as the staff at school, students are more likely to see its importance, too.

Digital Citizenship Lessons

Teachers can implement daily lessons on how to interact with technology appropriately. These lessons can be simple and shouldn’t take up a lot of class time. The first option is to integrate more technology so that students have to engage with it. This would involve using something like a learning management system (LMS). An LMS can be used to set up a space where students can practice numerous digital skills. Maybe they have to write a blog where they can learn about good information to include online as well as writing skills. They could write emails to each other. They could post photos or create an album. An LMS is a very useful tool to have in schools to build knowledge of technology as well as digital citizenship.

Gamification can also be a useful way to teach digital citizenship. Minecraft is a beloved video game for all different age groups, even adults. Minecraft: Education Edition is now available for classroom use. Teachers can use a fun tech tool to help accomplish learning tasks while students enjoy the game-based medium.

While an LMS and gamification are great tools, there are just basic skills that students need to know.

  • How to create and save strong passwords
  • How to address cyberbullying
  • How to determine if a website is safe to visit
  • How to protect from identity theft
  • How to use a search engine most effectively
  • How to avoid plagiarism

There are many websites that offer ideas for lessons and curriculum. Common Sense has free digital citizen lessons for each grade level.

Do you have ideas of how to teach digital citizenship to your students? Please share with us on Twitter @Schoology

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