What to Teach Students About Digital Citizenship

Michelle Bouslog
Michelle Bouslog
EdTech teacher; M.A.Ed. in EdTech, Concordia University St. Paul, MN
Students sit at their desk, all using their smartphones.

Any student going to school today is a digital native. They were born during the age of technology and have always been surrounded by, and familiar with, various technological devices, making educational technology especially prominent today. Think of how different it is for older people when technology started to boom vs. a young child who was born immersed in it.

Moving forward, technology will always be familiar to students, but there are some things that students today may need to familiarize themselves with when it comes to being a digital citizen. What is digital citizenship for kids, what type of information should students be careful to share, what does one need to know about copyright, and what is cyberbullying?

What is Digital Citizenship and Why is it So Important?

According to the International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, digital citizenship goes beyond the ability to use technology responsibly. It is about being an active and contributing citizen of the digital world. Students need to learn how to show respect to others, even when they are hiding behind the comfort of their computer screen.

With the ability to connect to millions of people worldwide, there is so much to learn about when it comes to understanding and respecting others from different cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. The technology world is a very powerful one, which is why learning to be a positive digital citizen is so critical.

Digital Citizenship to Teach Your Students

Private Information

When it comes to technology and privacy, there are many things users need to fully understand. Because of this murk, personal privacy can be at risk. There is one organization who has created a landing base of information to help students better understand their safety and rights when it comes to sharing information.

The website, Teaching Privacy, is an informative website created by computer science professors partnered with educators at the University of California-Berkeley. The website breaks down privacy into ten principles, creating a sort of digital citizenship curriculum. These principles include “You’re Leaving Footprints”, “Information is Valuable”, “Someone Could Listen”, and “Privacy Requires Work,” to name just a few. For every principal, there are articles included that provide examples of situations where someone misunderstood their privacy rights. For example, one article wrote about how a man tried, and failed, to sue his family over an unwanted Facebook photo he was tagged in.

The website also provides educators with ideas on what they can do to ensure privacy in all areas, as well as a guide on ways to better control your own privacy. What it means to have “private information” on the internet is hard to understand, but this particular resource sheds a much-needed light on it.


Computers make it so easy to copy, paste, share, and create. Convenient and easy, but it also can make a thin line between casually sharing work and breaking laws. Copyright is the legal concept that art, writing, images, music, and more, belong to the people who create them. This means that any original content one creates is their personal property. If others copy their work and pretend it is their own, they can run into legal trouble. If you are going to refer to someone else’s work, be sure to cite where you got the work from to give credit to the owner.

If you are going to use, change, or copy someone else’s work, you will need permission from the owner. This license you obtain will give you the permission needed to use their work. When in doubt, be sure to include where and who you got the information from in order to avoid any chance of copyright infringement.          


Bullying is not an unfamiliar word. In fact, it gets thrown around so often that sometimes people only understand the surface level definition. According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive behavior where someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can be both physical and emotional.

Now enter the internet. Information is now able to be spread within seconds. Which means bullying has taken on a whole new life. Think about how easy hurtful comments can be posted on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Or pictures that can be shared without someone’s permission. With the prevalence of social media platforms, opportunities for harassment are endless. This new form of bullying described above is known as cyberbullying. This form of bullying has unique concerns as it can be persistent, permanent, and hard to notice. All states have laws that require schools to respond to bullying. So, if you hear or see something, say something.

Technology is a huge part of our lives, and educational technology is a huge part of teaching. We work with it, learn with it, and play with it. Students from here on out will be digital natives; us educators must teach students what it means to be a digital citizen and know digital literacy. This way, students will learn how to positively contribute to the technological world and be respectful of all the members that make up it.

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