Digital citizenship is more important than ever. For years, children and teens have been getting devices and using social media at younger ages. This trend has now been exacerbated by the significant uptick in technology use due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, media literacy has become increasingly crucial with the rise of fake news and polarization online. So, what can we do?
What Is Digital Citizenship?
Digital citizenship is not just internet safety (although that is important!). Together with safety, digital citizenship encompasses media balance and digital wellness, privacy and security, digital footprint, news and media literacy, cyberbullying and digital drama, online relationships and communication, and digital rights and responsibilities. Developing digital citizens means that students are not just taught what not to do, but they are also empowered to make responsible choices online and to use digital media for good.
Teaching Digital Citizenship
Our students have grown up surrounded by technology. As a result, they are digital natives. They often are pros at navigating apps and social media, but do not have a thorough understanding of the impacts devices or platforms have on them or the consequences of certain digital behaviors. Although we hope that parents teach their children digital citizenship skills at home, even many adults struggle with navigating the digital world. To successfully prepare our students for the future, we must teach digital citizenship in schools. Many future-ready skills, such as critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, play an important role in developing responsible digital citizens.
Incorporating and Promoting into Your Curriculum
Rather than treating digital citizenship like “just another thing” to squeeze into the curriculum, there are ways that it fits within topics we already address. For example, we can tie media literacy in with research in English or history classes or address cyberbullying and online relationships as part of our social-emotional learning (SEL) or advisory curriculum. Technology and STEM courses, such as computer science, offer many opportunities to address digital citizenship topics. Hosting a schoolwide Digital Citizenship Week (the official week takes place every October) is also a great way to get the whole school community involved in promoting and learning about important concepts together. Another important way to promote digital citizenship is to get families involved. Many parents appreciate resources about how to approach digital age parenting, and these resources can be provided as part of a broader digital citizenship program.
Creating a Program
Administrators, library media specialists, tech coaches, counselors, teachers, students, and parents can all be involved in creating a digital citizenship program. For example, administrators can champion digital citizenship and ensure a space for it in the school’s curriculum. Additionally, library media specialists and tech coaches can find the curriculum and plan activities, including partnering with teachers to implement the program with students. Also, counselors can embed concepts and lessons into the school’s SEL and wellness initiatives. Students can act as technology leaders and be mentors for younger students, as well as provide input about what their peers need. Even more, parents can learn more about digital citizenship and act as partners by promoting digital citizenship values at home. Each stakeholder plays a valuable role in building responsible digital citizens.
- Common Sense Education (K-12th grades)
- Be Internet Awesome by Google (recommended for ages 7-12)
- MiTechKids (K-5th grades) and 21 Things 4 Students (6th-12th grades)
- Savvy Cyber Kids
- Center for Cyber Safety & Education
- eSafety Commissioner
- Media Smarts
- Childnet International
- Social Media Test Drive
- Facebook’s Digital Literacy Library
- Dig Cit Commit
- DQ World
- Everyday Dig Cit App
- Beginner’s Guide to Dig Cit eBook
Free News and Media Literacy Resources:
- News Literacy Project
- Newseum ED
- Truth or Fiction?
- Common Sense Education News and Media Literacy Resource Center
- Critical Evaluation of Information
- Copyright and Creativity
- Factitious Game
- KQED Learn
- Fact Check.org
- The Reality Team
Want to know even more about digital citizenship? Here are more TechNotes articles for you to peruse.