Digital citizenship

Who will you be online? This video offers a cute introduction to digital citizenship. Bully or protect? Safe or sorry? Credit or steal? The choices are clear, and it is what responsible citizens do in their everyday lives. Cyber bullying, in particular, has been a hot topic in the last decade. According to the Pew Internet report on “Teens, kindness and cruelty in social network sites”, certain groups have experienced more unkindness than others (teenage girls aged 12-13 and black teenagers), and even when they don’t encounter hostility, most teens know that the online world can be “crude”, “mean” and “fake” (Lenhart et al., 2011). Online harassment has been blamed for the suicide of many teens.

Schools are already teaching ethics and citizenship so that students can navigate the real world. It is time we start teaching digital citizenship, ideally from a young age, in order to guide students into reaching the NETS-S standards. I envision this happening first in higher education rather than in K-12 classrooms. A quick browse of Coursera’s online classes show some relevant courses: “E-learning and Digital Cultures“, “Securing Digital Democracy“, and “Networks: Friends, Money, and Bytes“.

(As a side note for those who don’t know, Coursera offers online higher education from world-wide recognized universities for free, in what is called “massive open online courses” or MOOCs. You can read more about it here!)

The elements of digital citizenship as described by this video (and their website) are:

  • Participation in online society, including use of digital commerce and exchange of information.
  • Digital literacy, knowing when and how to use technology.
  • Digital etiquette.
  • Knowing technology law, rights and responsibilities.
  • Monitoring your health and wellness as related to the mental and physical effects of technology use.
  • Taking electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

These correlate nicely with the items that the fourth NETS-T standard advises educators to teach in order to promote digital citizenship.

Wagner’s inventory of skills that students need for the future is exactly the same as the list of NETS-S standards, except that the latter clearly spell out “digital citizenship” as a required proficiency while Wagner seems to gloss over it. His list includes problem-solving skills, collaboration, adaptability, initiative, effective communication, imagination, and accessing and analyzing information. Wagner stresses that learning should not only be based on content; teaching these skills is important too. When we think of digital citizenship, it is the same case: it’s not about the information, but about how we access it, how we use it, how we communicate it, and how we conduct ourselves online.


Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Smith, A., Purcell, K., Zickuhr, K., & Rainie, L. (2011). Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

About Lily F.M.

Graduate student trying to learn as much as I can!

One response to “Digital citizenship

  1. Lily,

    I agree with you 100% that it is time for us to start teaching ethics and digital citizenship in our classrooms. I like that you made the correlation to real world ethics and citizenship here, as there really is not much difference, other than the format in which interactions between citizens takes place. In the real world, we are expected to be respectful and act professionally when we encounter others and there is certainly no exception to that rule in the online world. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize the need for similar behaviors in both environments. As you point out, there are some groups of people who experience bullying and unkindness at higher rates than others. This has got to stop. I believe that it stops when we, as educators, as parents, as administrators, as citizens cease to tolerate such behaviors. By turning heads and looking the other way, or by not monitoring our children’s internet usage at all, we are opening them up to a whole world of things they may not be quite ready to interact with and understand.

    Also, thank you for the information about Coursera! My wife and I are both eager to check it out.



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