What is digital citizenship, and how can you prepare your students?

Two primary-age school students work together on a digital tablet

Published: August 15th, 2022

In the 21st century, it’s impossible to overstate the role that technology plays in our lives. From the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed, we rely on gadgets and gizmos to help us with everything from cooking breakfast to checking the weather forecast. And of course, technology is also a vital part of our education. According to Promethean’s 2021 State of Technology in Education Report, in which we surveyed hundred of teachers across Australia to collect information about trends in educational technology, 95% suggested that technology is an essential part of everyday life, and that this should be reflected in lessons, and 70% identified technology as a priority within their school’s strategy.

While there’s no doubt that this increased use of technology has many benefits, there are also some risks that should be considered. For example, students who rely too heavily on technology may become addicted to it or isolated from the world around them. They may also be more susceptible to cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment. Additionally, there’s the risk that personal information will be leaked or hacked. Lastly, online resources can often be unreliable, which can lead to students being misinformed about important topics.

Nevertheless, when used responsibly, technology is a powerful tool. That’s why it’s critical to teach your students how to use technology safely and to provide them with the skills to protect themselves and others online. This is where digital citizenship comes into play. 

Digital citizenship meaning

What is digital citizenship? Digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of digital technology, including social media and the internet. Digital citizenship definitions tend to cover a variety of topics, such as cyberbullying, digital ethics, online privacy, and digital security.

They develop in different ways as part of a process of lifelong learning.

So, what does it mean to be a digital citizen? Well, a good digital citizen is someone who uses digital technology responsibly and safely. They are also aware of the potential risks and dangers associated with digital technology and take steps to protect themselves and others online.

Taking this concept one step further, a global digital citizen is someone who not only uses digital technology responsibly, but also uses it to make a positive impact on the world. For example, they might use social media to campaign for a cause they’re passionate about or use their digital skills to help others. Because digital technologies have connected communities on a global scale, how one interacts in the digital realm can have a global impact.  

Why is digital citizenship for students important?

Digital citizenship is important for several reasons, including:

1. Helping to keep everyone safe online

When students are taught digital citizenship, they learn how to stay safe when using the internet and social media. This includes learning about things like cyberbullying and online predators. It also helps them to understand how to protect their personal information from being leaked or hacked.

2. Promoting inclusivity and respect for others

Digital citizenship also teaches students about digital etiquette. This includes things like being respectful to others online, and not engaging in cyberbullying or other forms of online harassment. It also teaches students not to discriminate against others based on their race, religion, or gender.

3. Helping students become more responsible digital users

When students are taught digital citizenship, they learn how to be more responsible digital users. This includes understanding how to use digital technology ethically and safely. It also helps them to avoid plagiarism and copyright infringement.

4. Promoting digital literacy

Digital citizenship helps to promote digital literacy. This is the ability to use digital technology for a variety of tasks, such as researching, communicating, and collaborating. When students are digital citizens, they have the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful digital users.

What makes a good digital citizen?

A good digital citizen is someone who is responsible and respectful when using digital technology. They are aware of the potential risks and dangers of digital technology, and take necessary steps to stay safe online.

Examples of good digital citizenship

For example, a good digital citizen will:

  • Use strong passwords and other security measures to protect their digital information from being accessed by unauthorised individuals.
  • Be respectful to others when interacting with them online, and avoid engaging in cyberbullying or other forms of online harassment.
  • Make sure to maintain a healthy balance between their digital and offline lives, and not spend too much time online.

What are the 9 elements of digital citizenship?

According to researchers Mike Ribble and Gerald D. Bailey, there are 9 elements of digital citizenship that should be taught to students. These are:

  1. Digital etiquette: Digital etiquette refers to the manners and etiquette that should be used when interacting with others online. This includes things like being respectful to others, and not using offensive language.
  2. Digital law: Digital law refers to the laws and regulations that govern digital technology. This includes things like copyright law and cyberbullying laws.
  3. Digital communication: Digital communication refers to the ability to communicate effectively using digital technology. This includes things like being able to write and send emails and use social media.
  4. Digital literacy: Digital literacy refers to the ability to use digital technology for a variety of tasks. This includes things like being able to research, communicate, and collaborate.
  5. Digital access: Digital access refers to the ability to use digital technology. This includes having access to the internet, and having the skills and knowledge necessary to use digital technology. Just because technology is seemingly ubiquitous it doesn’t mean that every student has access to it. Consider that some students may not have the resources for a computer, smartphone or tablet. Consider this in your classroom and ensure there is a suitable alternative.  
  6. Digital rights and responsibilities: Digital rights and responsibilities refer to the rights and responsibilities that come with using digital technology. This includes things like the right to privacy, and the responsibility to not engage in cyberbullying. 
  7. Digital security: Digital security refers to the measures taken to protect digital information from being accessed by unauthorised individuals. This includes things like using strong passwords and installing antivirus software.
  8. Digital health: Digital health refers to the ability to maintain physical and mental health while using digital technology. This includes things like maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and not spending too much time online.
  9. Digital commerce: Digital commerce refers to the ability to buy and sell goods and services online. This includes things like using digital payment methods.

Each of these elements is important in its own right. However, when they’re all considered together, they create a well-rounded framework for digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship in the classroom

Teaching digital citizenship in the classroom is a great way to help your students prepare for the digital world. Some methods include:

Encouraging interaction with digital media in the classroom

It’s important that students have access to technology in the classroom. By giving them everyday access to the internet in a safe and supervised environment, students not only develop the skills they need to use technology safely and critically, but can also ask questions of their teachers as issues arise. 

For example, many teachers have adopted the use of interactive displays, such as the ActivPanel, in the classroom. This enables students to interact with digital media, whether on the panel at the front of the class or through their own devices and screen mirroring. The teacher is always available to provide guidance on how to use the technology safely, and can discuss issues as they arise, either in a one-on-one capacity with a student, or as a group with the entire classroom using the front of class display. 

Teaching critical thinking skills

Alongside access to technology, it’s integral that students develop critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is the ability to analyse information and make a judgement based on reflection, research, and reasoning. Students with critical thinking skills don’t accept information at face value – they analyse it, ask questions, seek out more information, and come to their own conclusions. 

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills for digital citizens as it enables students to make reasoned judgements about the people they interact with and the information they consume online. These skills not only help to keep students safe from online hackers and those with malicious intentions, but also enables them to think critically about unreliable information they find online.

Some methods for developing critical thinking skills in the classroom include using problem-solving activities, online games and puzzles, group projects and quizzes. 

Holding digital citizenship days or weeks

In addition to incorporating lessons about digital citizenship into your classroom, consider holding a digital citizenship day or week, where the entire school focuses on digital citizenship. This could involve assemblies, classroom activities, and guest speakers.

Creating digital citizenship policies for your school or classroom

It’s important that educators practise what they preach, not only to model good behaviour to students, but also, ultimately, to keep the school and students safe. All schools and classrooms should have digital citizenship policies in place. These policies could cover things like internet safety, responsible use of digital technology, and digital etiquette. Guidelines should be used by students every day, as well as teachers and administrative staff.

Using digital citizenship resources

There are many lesson plans, videos, and articles available online that cover everything from internet safety to cyberbullying. Make use of these resources in your lessons. Some examples include digital citizenship lessons from Common Sense and a collection of lessons, lesson plans and resources compiled by the NSW government.

Preparing your students for a digital world

Digital citizenship is an important issue that should be taught in the classroom. By teaching your students about digital citizenship, you can help them become responsible, safe, and respectful users of digital technology.

There are many ways to incorporate digital citizenship into your curriculum, such as incorporating it into existing lessons, holding digital citizenship days or weeks, and creating digital citizenship policies. But one of the most important and impactful methods is to encourage interaction with digital media in the classroom, such as through using an interactive display and other connected devices. By allowing students to participate in online research and learning every day, you can guide them on safe online use and teach them the practical skills they need to be good digital citizens, all in real-time. 

If you’d like to learn more about using technology, such as the Promethean ActivPanel, in the classroom, get in touch to request a demo.

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