Teaching Digital Citizenship

Back to School for most means buying supplies, excitement of new classes and meeting new friends. For others it can be a filled with tremendous social anxiety.

Remember the fashionable awkward years of a bad perm your mom gave you, coupled with braces and glasses? Maybe that was just me, but even if it seemed like the end of the world then, they are now funny memories that I look back on and can laugh about. However, what if instead they were images that were talked about, emailed to friends, posted on Facebook, tweeted, blogged about and in the digital world forever?

Digital citizenship is usually defined as behavior associated with technology use. Mike Ribble, an education researcher and early advocate of digital citizenship, explains: Digital Citizenship is a concept which helps teachers, technology leaders and parents to understand what students/young people/technology users should know to use technology appropriately. Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool; it is a way to prepare students/technology users for a society full of technology.

Way back in my day of the late 80’s (wow that makes me feel old), gossip was something handled behind your back and that’s where it ended. In the digital information world where even Kindergarteners today are given iPads and laptops in the classroom for education, we also need to be aware of teaching them the responsibilities that come with fingertip technology.

We are seeing more and more cases of misused information that is not only hurtful, but illegal. A spiteful text, a quick picture or unwarranted posts can lead to court cases before they know it. Megan’s Law was created in California from a case of cyberbullying which caused a 13 year old to commit suicide. What teens feel is just gossip or being “mean girls” is beginning to reach a whole new level of click communication.

But it’s not just about cyberbullying. Every year statistics and cases are on the rise for adolescents sending each other inappropriate photos (sexting). A senior who is 18 years of age can send a 17 year old friend an explicit photo and instantly they have committed a felony without even knowing it.


Many students aren’t aware of these implications, which will lead to permanent records and follow them for life. Too often we are seeing students, as well as adults, misusing and abusing technology but not sure what to do. The issue is more than what the users do not know, but what is considered appropriate technology usage.

Teaching our kids how to safely, ethically and carefully navigate the cyber world is critical to creating a healthy workforce of the future. Responsible digital citizenship is about learning how to be good to one another while providing skills they need to make smart choices online.

You can begin the discussion by printing this Family Contract for Digital Citezenship. Talk to your kids and help start the understanding of these key aspects of digital responsibility.

• Digital Rights & Responsibilities

• Digital Communication

• Digital Access

• Digital Etiquette

• Digital Security

For more information on programs you can bring to your school or how to address these topics to young adults you can read Microsoft’s article on Fostering Digital Citizenship.


One Comment
  1. Jitendra Jain | September 17th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Great Article!!