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[Educator Network] Teaching Digital Citizenship

[Educator Network] Teaching Digital Citizenship

Now that much of our social interaction happens online, educators need to understand how to teach students about responsible digital citizenship as well. Good digital citizens operate with practiced safe, responsible, and legal use of technology. It means using technology in a positive way.

In classrooms where students use devices and tablets to gather their instructions it is increasingly important to teach digital citizenship and digital etiquette, teaching students how digital technologies work and how to use them. This means there needs to be an understanding of ethics and related law, knowing how to stay safe online, and advice on related health and safety issues such as predators and the permanence of data. Digital citizenship is the continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use.

Educators ought to embed the rules of digital citizenship into lessons. As mentioned, these are skills that will follow them into their lifelong interactions, so teach these important competencies in an authentic way.

There are some standard rules for manners and safety expectations. Keep in mind, there are some developmental considerations.

  • Rule 1: Treat others with respect.
    Do not bully, threaten, or belittle. Do not engage with people that do.

  • Rule 2: Do not steal.
    This also goes for online and off. Using someone else’s writing or artwork without siting it might as well be claiming it as your own. This means if you are adding photos to an essay or quoting an article, let the reader know you did your research and give credit to those that deserve it.

  • Rule 3: Never give out personal information.
    This includes phone numbers, addresses, age, parent or guardian information, etc.

  • Rule 4: Social media is not a place to air drama- keep that for a journal.
    If you do use social media, check the settings and make sure that your information stays private, or only on display for trusted family and friends.

  • Rule 5: Check the primary source.
    Make sure what you are reading or researching is unbiased and truthful. If you’re unsure, see if you can find another reliable source that can back up the information.

  • Rule 6: Pay attention to URLs.
    Think before you click on a link! Some URLs are designed to trick you into thinking they are legit. If it feels off, it probably is.


In addition to these standard rules that have been in place since the early days of technology in the classroom, there are new ones continuously being added to the lists. One of the best ways to be a good digital citizen is to talk about the rules of your classroom and families. What is allowed and what is off limits is a great place to start. Take the time to sketch out expectations and have your students participate in creating the digital rules for your classroom.

Interested in more resources to help get this year off on the right foot? Edmentum has a 2020-21 Success & Planning Toolkit, which includes some tools that speak to digital citizenship. Both sites have lesson plans and implementation ideas. Common Sense Media has some great resources for both parents and educators. They provide suggestions for teaching our students to be safe online as well as how to evaluate the information they are receiving.

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Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently the Educator Initiatives Manager. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she learns something new and exciting every day.