Digital CitizenshipAccording to, "Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." Digital citizenship has nine themes:

  • Access
  • Commerce
  • Communication
  • Literacy
  • Etiquette
  • Law
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Health and wellness
  • Security.

The concept of REP (respect, educate, protect) is a way to explain as well as teach these themes.  More information is available from ISTE (Institute for Technology in Education).

How to integrate digital citizenship

Five Ways You Should Integrate Digital Citizenship Into Your Classes suggests using free learning management systems like Edmodo and Schoology. These sites are designed to help you manage lessons, create engaging content, and interact with other students/educators. Educators also need to model good citizenship and then connect and collaborate. A new site coming soon for elementary educators is at Infinite Learning, a Garfield-themed website on life skills lessons including cybersafety.

Digital Citizenship Means Responsible Use links to a video of the 21st century learner, ISTE Student Standards, Teacher Standards, the nine elements of digital citizenship, and additional resources including DigiCitiDigiTeen (developed by Vicki Davis of Cool Cat Teacher Blog fame), and Digital Citizenship: Rights Roles and Responsibilities in a Digital Society--elementary and secondary lesson plans for all nine elements of digital citizenship.

Five-Minute Film Festival: Teaching Digital Citizenship is a fascinating look at digital citizenship through brief online videos including BeCyberwise, which includes a clip of Howard Gardner, a very short video on the impact of technology, Out of Your Hands – a look at how an innocent post or picture can wind up anywhere online, and Go Figure 2, a compilation of startling statistics including:

  • Fifty-one percent of 16 year olds share their age/birth date with others
  • Seventeen percent of teens keep their social network sites public and 19 percent only have some privacy settings enabled
  • Twenty-nine percent of kids between five and 11 years old believe they are anonymous online
  • Only a little over 50 percent of children age nine to 12 know how to block unwanted messages
  • Nine percent of nine year olds share their email passwords and 24 percent of 18 year olds do the same
  • Seventeen percent of male and 23 percent of female users would share inappropriate pictures online

Lesson plans for digital citizenship

Pensacola Catholic High School created a worksheet that relates to its policies on acceptable use, internet safety and care and maintenance (of equipment), but parts can be meshed with policies of your own. Other lessons include recognizing appropriate and inappropriate technology use, ethics and etiquette, and online safety.

Brainpop’s Spotlight on Digital Citizenship requires free registration and activities include: Create a Game: Internet Safety, Is Everything Real on the Internet?; Online Safety Game Boards; STEM to the Rescue; Plagiarism, Copyright, and Citing Sources; and a No Bully Zone. There are also discussions and activities on copyright, computer viruses, information privacy, internet searching and social networking.

Kindergarten through eighth-grade lessons at Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety focus on the nine themes of digital citizenship with lessons on getting parental permission, securing private information and self protection.

Anne Bubnic, K-12 technology specialist and digital citizenship advocate has posted links to more than 180 lesson plans to her diigo (online bookmarks) that include many interesting sites including: Stalking in English Class, Fair Use – Beg, Borrow or Steal?, Music Downloading – Answer the Question; Keeping Personal Info Private, Misinformation – Truth or Spoof? Social Networking: Don’t Give Yourself Away, and much more!

For middle school students, Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship for Grades 6-8 provides developmentally-appropriate lessons: Digital Life 101; Strategic Searching, Scams and Schemes; My Media; Safe Online Talk; Gender Stereotypes Online; Identifying High Quality Sites; and the Reality of Digital Drama. Digital Literacy and Citizenship for Grades K-2 has lesson plans on Going Places Safely; ABC Searching; Keep It Private, Sending Email; Staying Safe Online; Screen Out the Mean; Using Keywords; Sites I Like; and Powerful Passwords.

Another middle school site, How toTeach Digital Citizenship in Sixth Grade from Ask a Tech Teacher, is a five to six week unit on digital privacy, rights, and implications. There are some excellent activities about protecting students’ online reputations. You can also sign up to be notified when the Structured Learning K-6 Digital Citizenship Curriculum becomes available sometime this month. The fifth grade curriculum follows a similar format and includes lessons on hoaxes and Facebook.

A high school lesson plan from Google in Education addresses Understanding You Tube and Digital Citizenship by teaching students about YouTube policies, reporting inappropriate content, protecting their privacy, detecting lies, and being responsible internet users.

Digital Citizenship and Creative Content Curriculum Outline is aimed at secondary students and stresses the importance of understanding how to manage content and respect the rights of others regarding creative content – whether it is music, movies, software, images or other content or  how to protect their own works.

You can download a comprehensive lesson plan from Digital Citizens, titled Foundational Lesson Plan #2 – Digital Compass. The lessons are designed to get students thinking about their technology usage and include a warm-up activity, group activities, lesson extensions, teaching tips, short quizzes, and a rubric. Another downloadable lesson plan is on Cell Phone Interruptions and should be required for all students (and many adults!).

Edmodo has several resources available including curriculum, scope and sequence, toolkits on different topics, a digital passport, self-paced lessons for iPad, and the downloadable Digital Citizenship Starter Kit (in partnership with Common Sense Media), which includes a digital citizenship poster and nine tips for online safety.

The Digital Passport from Common Sense Media is a sponsor-supported, free resource with web-based games and videos, modules on critical skills for digital safety and respect, collaborative classroom activities, and supports responsible use policies.

Evaluating what we think we know

Twenty-one Things for the 21st Century Educator Technology every educator should know is a compilation from our favorite teacher librarian Joyce Valenza and educator Kathy Schrock on digital citizenship, acceptable use, critical evaluation and cyber safety. You can take a pre- and post-assessment survey of your technology proficiency, find a sample acceptable use document, access bullying and cyber safety resources, and research bogus and hoax sites using Joyce’s criteria (BASIC for elementary and CARRDSS for secondary students) or download Kathy’s Blog Evaluation Sheet.

In addition to the resources mentioned above, Web Wise Thinking = Digital Citizenship includes an explanation of The Dangers of Wikipedia; the Good the Bad and the Ugly: or, Why It’s a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources; Evaluating and Using Print and Media Resources; Snopes Urban Legends Reference; and Alan November’s Information Literacy Resources.

A Moodleshare course on Digital Citizenship includes a rubric and sites for evaluation displays some interesting infographics on website evaluation, source reliability, and how to read a URL. Canada’s Media Smarts Centre for Digital and Media Literacy offers teachers a link to Cyberbullying and Civic Participation, Deconstructing Web Pages, Hate 2.0, Hate or Debate?, Online Marketing to Kids (privacy and strategies), and more.

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at