Digital Citizenship Tools for Teachers

What is Digital Citizenship?

In today's world, teenagers spend about nine hours a day online. It is important for them to learn to use digital media responsibly and respectfully. Digital citizenship comprises all aspects of respectful, thoughtful, and ethical participation in online communities. Digital citizenship also includes everything from how much time a person spends on digital media to how they interact with others and how aware they are of their own rights online.

What is Digital Citizenship? - Definition & Themes

What is Digital Citizenship? - Definition & Themes video preview

Teachers should be aware that they may also need to update their own tools and relationship to technology to keep up with students' needs. This can mean attending ongoing professional development about technology use, surveying students and families about their digital media use and needs, and working with colleagues to keep technology used in classrooms up-to-date but safe and meaningful. The fundamental aspects of digital citizenship will be familiar to any instructor with knowledge about everyday civics and ethics. Understanding the principles that allow students to participate wisely and ethically in a digital environment will help instructors build strong curriculum and model meaningful digital communication for students of all ages.

Teaching Digital Citizenship

Teaching digital citizenship begins with understanding the digital generation. As with any kind of curriculum, digital citizenship course construction should start with considering where students are coming from and what they need to know. This includes understanding digital technology's impact on social and emotional development.

Many curricula around digital awareness and computer use include teaching responsible use of technology. Digital citizenship lesson plans range from teaching students explicitly about the nine basic elements of digital citizenship to role-playing complex scenarios they might encounter in a digital environment. Any in-class work with the internet provides an ideal opportunity to teach technology ethics; these lessons can often be embedded in social studies and community building work.

Teaching Digital Literacy in the Classroom also means incorporating lesson plans that show students when to trust or not trust an online source. It might involve showing them the powers but also the limitations of various social media. Keeping families looped in can go a long way toward making these kinds of activities meaningful.

It's essential to work with colleagues to encourage strong digital citizenship in the greater school environment. For example, can you establish schoolwide rules and policies that make sense and incorporate all elements of digital citizenship?

Teaching digital citizenship also means ensuring that students are aware of laws governing their safety, such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Teachers should model ethical interfacing with any digital media that are available in school.

9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

First, it is important to foster discussions with students about the kind of access they have to an online environment. Students should understand that access to digital technology is not always equitably distributed, and they as citizens can help to foster equity.


A good digital citizen needs to know how to “read” the digital environment, which means keeping abreast of new technologies, using them appropriately, and thinking critically about their usage and implications.


Part of being a digital citizen means treating others with politeness, kindness and respect during all kinds of interactions. Digital etiquette also involves speaking up when others are being rude or inappropriate.


Students should learn how to speak up for themselves as well as listen actively to others in a digital environment, and to use technology to facilitate appropriate and meaningful communication.


All students should learn how to keep themselves safe and protected online. They should learn how and when to get an adult for help with security and personal safety issues. They should also use virus protection and firewalls to protect their data. Students should understand not to expose the private information of themselves or others.


The digital environment includes plenty of buying and selling, and part of being a digital citizen means navigating e-commerce sensibly, becoming ethical and critical consumers in the digital economy.


Laws governing digital citizenship are constantly changing; students should know how to stay up-to-date on legislation and the shifting boundaries between legal and illegal activities. This includes not hacking or spreading spam, among many other issues.

Health and Wellness

Students should learn that to be a good digital citizen is also to take care of themselves, including their eyes, brains, muscles and bones, with an emphasis on the increasing ways online behavior and mental health can interact.

Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Finally, just as any citizen should know their rights and responsibilities offline, the same is true in a digital environment. Digital citizens should understand, for instance, their rights to privacy and freedom of speech.

Excellence in Teaching Grant from
Receive $1000 to spend on the resources you need to help your students become astute digital citizens and give them the best chance to succeed with the Excellence in Teaching Grant.
  • Receive $1000 and a 12-month membership to supplement your teaching
  • Must be a full time preschool to 12th grade teacher
  • Apply today!
Congratulations to our recent winner! Jennifer Tice, Science Teacher; West Lafayette, IN
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Digital Citizenship