What is digital citizenship?

Are you a good Digital Citizen? Are your kids? How can you tell? Digital citizenship refers to the norms of appropriate behavior regarding technology use. The term has been used primarily in school settings where classes and workshops address issues such as email etiquette, avoiding online cruelty, device use during class, avoiding copyright infringement and other such topics.

As I was filming SCREENAGERS, I spent time with some wonderful private schools that were doing things like holding two-full day workshops devoted to digital citizenships. But sadly, I did not see this happening in public schools. Why not? Kids are on these devices 6.5 hours a day, not including school work or homework, and thus having some meaningful discussions seems more than appropriate, it seems essential.

We believe that all schools should be teaching digital citizenship to their students. There are many free wonderful curriculums online. The key is that the schools need to feel motivated to take on this important topic and to create platforms for it to occur. The more we as parents and teachers speak up about this need,  the greater the chance it will happen. So talk with your school administrators, teachers and PTA. Share with us as you move forward on this.

Learn more about what both you and your kids should know about Digital Citizenship from the sites listed below.

Common Sense Media This comprehensive K-12 curriculum provides lesson plans, student digital interactives and assessments, as well as professional development for teachers and materials for family education. 

Edutopia: Digital Citizenship, Resource Roundup This collection of articles, videos, and other resources on Internet safety, cyberbullying, digital responsibility, and media and digital literacy offers a good starting place for understanding the challenge and practice of teaching Digital Citizenship.

Digital Citizenship: Using Technology Appropriately A website for teachers and parents that  includes resources, publications and an explanation of the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship, as defined by site creator Mike Ribble. The Nine Elements include Digital Access, Digital Commerce, Digital Communication, Digital Literacy, Digital Etiquette, Digital Law, Digital Rights & Responsibilities, Digital Health & Wellness and Digital Security.

NetSmartz Workshop This interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on- and offline. The program, designed for children, parents/guardians, educators, and law enforcement uses videos, games, activity cards, and presentations to teach children how to recognize potential Internet risks; engage children and adults in a two-way conversation about on- and offline risks and empower children to help prevent themselves from being exploited and to report victimization to a trusted adult.

YouthSpark: Online Safety This Microsoft site targets teens, encouraging them to be aware of the role the Internet plays in their lives, both now and in the future. With a focus on safety, the site directs teens to “pay attention to what’s online about you and take steps to ensure a positive persona— both personally and professionally.”

Cyberwise CyberWise offers parents and educators a resource for helping youth to use digital media confidently and safely. In their words: “We help parents and educators understand digital citizenship, online safety and privacy, reputation management, and more so they can help kids embrace technology safely and wisely.” The site is packed with free videos, ebooks, news, blogs and research, all well worth your time.

ISTE: 9 resources for teaching digital citizenship ISTE, the International Society for Technology Education, in a nonprofit with a mission “to empower learners to flourish in a connected world.” This list of 9 resources if focused on the challenges teachers face in teaching students how to be responsible technology users. Modeling “ethical technology use” is an important element of ISTE’s prescription for success. Also included is an informative infographic that compares good citizen concepts with good Digital Citizenship.

Digizen This site include information on what digital citizenship is and encourages users to become responsible DIGItal citiZENS. Specific advice and resources focus on social networking and cyberbullying.