Technology Integration

Developing Students’ Digital Citizenship Skills

Teaching students to develop an awareness of data security, online etiquette, and cyberbullying helps them make better decisions online.

November 16, 2023
shironosov / iStock

Digital Citizenship Week is celebrated in October each year. The focus is on building digital citizenship skills with events planned for schools to join in and learn more. These are concepts that teachers and schools should focus on throughout the year as well. With the increased use of digital tools in our classrooms and the amount of technology used in everyday life and work, we must provide learning opportunities for students to develop “digcit” skills all year long.

Being a responsible digital citizen means that all individuals are able to use technology ethically, responsibly, and effectively. It is important to develop an understanding of the impact that one’s digital actions can have on other individuals and on society as a whole. Students and teachers must be able to keep themselves safe, know how to protect their privacy, learn how to critically analyze information, and engage in respectful interactions online. 

Vital digital citizenship skills 

Privacy and security: With increased data collection and online tracking of websites we use and how our information is shared, understanding how to safeguard our privacy is key.  With more students using digital tools and at a younger age, it is essential to build in activities that will help students to better understand how to protect themselves and to respect the privacy of others as well. For instance, teaching students how to create unique passwords is key for securing personal information. With the increase in cybersecurity attacks over the past few years, updating passwords and even using two-factor authentication (TFA) will help to keep everyone safer. 

Communication: With the variety of social media platforms available and how quickly we can post and respond, providing opportunities for students to practice responsible posting is an area that we need to focus on regularly. Even with young students, simulating an X (formerly Twitter) chat or other online discussion can be done using sticky notes, for example. Depending on grade level, another option is to use a tool like Padlet to help students learn how to properly post and interact with one another.

Cyberbullying: Because of the instant access to posting online, cyberbullying is a serious topic that needs to be discussed in every classroom. All educators can place a greater emphasis on recognizing and preventing cyberbullying by teaching students to be empathetic online. It is always a good idea to remind students to think before posting and offer tips for how to respond to or speak up against cyberbullying. Schools should have guidelines in place for students to understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to technology use. 

Tools and resources

There are a variety of activities and tools available that educators can bring into their classroom to give students the chance to engage in independent learning to develop digital citizenship skills. Some of these offer lessons that teachers can work through with students and make time for in class discussion, which leads to a more authentic and meaningful learning experience about the importance of responsible use of technology. 

21 Things 4 Students is a site that offers free activities for students in grades five through nine to learn more about online safety and to build technology skills.

Be Internet Awesome is available via Google and offers a curriculum for teaching online safety and digital citizenship in the classroom. The resources include activities, charts, guides, and Google Slides. They also provide a family guide and reference charts in both English and Spanish. 

Book Creator has three books focused on digital citizenship to help educators get started in their classroom. Also, by using Book Creator, students can collaborate with classmates to create a book and learn how to post and interact responsibly, access and use information, and build their digital citizenship skills.

BrainPOP provides a series of lessons focused on Digital Citizenship. There are 20 topics available and free lessons on digital etiquette and conflict resolution. Lesson plans and a variety of activities are included with each focus area.

Common Sense Media provides a variety of resources that focus on digital citizenship, media literacy, balancing the use of technology, and more. Their Digital Citizen materials are a fun and interactive way to teach students about internet safety.

EverFi offers activities and lessons on a variety of topics for students in grades K through 12. There are lessons on digital literacy and wellness that cover staying safe online and identity protection, with some lessons available in languages in addition to English. 

Nearpod has a variety of lessons available that are specific to grade levels and topics focused on digital citizenship. They created a series of lessons for Digital Citizenship Week that cover topics such as cyberbullying, digital literacy, and online safety for students in grades K through 12. 

sharing the importance of digital citizenship

In my eighth-grade STEAM course, we talk a lot about digital citizenship throughout the year. We use all of the abovementioned resources and engage in discussions about the concerns that come up. A few years ago, I started to teach my students how to sketchnote and used it as an opportunity to have them create PSAs to share information about one of the elements of digital citizenship they selected. I displayed their sketchnotes in our hallway to serve as reminders of the importance of digital citizenship. As an extension activity, a tool like Buncee allows students to create a Digital Citizenship PSA poster based on what they have learned. 

The rapid evolution of technology, especially with generative AI, means that we need to consistently help students learn how to evaluate online sources, identify fake news, and develop skills in analyzing multimedia content carefully and critically. In some cases, students may overly rely on technology, which is why it’s important to provide opportunities for students to find balance in the use of tech and to learn how to use it responsibly and effectively.

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