Make digital citizenship a priority at school and at home.

parent and child looking at a tablet

Whether you're teaching digital citizenship lessons on your own or are including them as part of a district-wide program, getting families involved and on board is essential. We know student learning is strengthened when families and educators are on the same page. Families can reinforce the lessons through conversations and expectations at home. And teachers can help students navigate the digital dilemmas they face in and out of school.

Depending on your school's community, parents' and caregivers' responses to digital citizenship may vary. Some will be relieved to know these lessons are part of the school curriculum; many families already grapple with kids' media use and are looking for any support they can get in teaching these skills. Others might be wary of a program that teaches what they feel are moral lessons.

With so many varied perspectives, it's critical to introduce digital citizenship to families from the start and make it part of your classroom or school culture. The more parents and caregivers know about the program, the more they will be able to take co-ownership of the effort.

Here are seven ways to get families on board with digital citizenship:

1. Introduce digital citizenship at back-to-school night.

From the moment you meet your students' families, let them know digital citizenship is a priority. Point out the Digital Citizenship Pledge poster (login to download PDF) hanging in your classroom (signed by all your students, of course) to kick-start the conversation about how you integrate lessons on cyberbullying, online privacy, digital footprints, and more into your teaching.

2. Send family tips and resources home regularly.

Make digital citizenship and media use resources part of your regular communication to families. You can print out advice articles in English or Spanish to send home in backpacks or post links on your class website, in the LMS, or in the weekly parent email. Check out our Family Tips (available in 10 languages) on Media Balance & Well-Being, Privacy & Security, Digital Footprint & Identity, Relationships & Communication, Cyberbullying, and News & Media Literacy.

3. Tailor your efforts to meet families' needs.

Help parents and caregivers have more buy-in by finding out what their biggest concerns are. You can set up a comment/question box at back-to-school night. Or, if you send out a back-to-school questionnaire, ask a few questions about their challenges and needs related to family media use. Are they struggling with homework and multitasking, finding quality family media, or keeping their kids safe online? This can help inform the resources you share with families as well as the work you do with students.

4. Empower students to bring digital citizenship lessons home.

A great way to reinforce learning is to give students opportunities to become the teachers. When it comes to digital citizenship topics, there’s a lot that students' families could learn. Come up with short, discussion-based activities for students to share at home, or use Common Sense Education's Family Activities, linked on each of the updated digital citizenship lessons. Take a look at the Media Balance & Well-Being Family Activity and News & Media Literacy Family Activity to get started.

5. Share the research.

Parents and caregivers have firsthand knowledge of the impact of devices and media on kids' lives. Even so, research on kids' media use is compelling and eye-opening and can establish the "why" for your digital citizenship program. The annual Common Sense Census offers a wealth of data on kids' media use. You can share the key findings for kids age 0 to 8 or for tweens and teens. Add these to your class website or parent newsletter, or print and provide them at back-to-school night.

6. Do a dig cit check-in during parent-teacher conferences.

There's a lot to cover during parent-teacher conferences, but a little info can go a long way. If you have technology in the classroom, give a brief overview of the expectations and norms you've established with students for device use and online communication. If you don't have time to get into many specifics of your approach to digital citizenship, simply have an advice article printed out for parents and caregivers to take home with them.

7. Address parent concerns with a school-wide presentation.

By giving families an opportunity to ask questions, get advice, and voice their concerns about kids' media use, schools can strengthen the relationship between educators and families. Let your school leadership team or PTA know about Common Sense's ready-made presentations to use at school-hosted events for parents and families. Presentation topics include choosing quality family media, learning with technology, cyberbullying, social media, mental health, and more.

Erin Wilkey O.

Erin’s work has focused on supporting students, teachers, and families for over a decade. As content director for family and community engagement at Common Sense, she provides parents and caregivers with practical tips and strategies for managing media and tech at home, and supports teachers in strengthening partnerships with families. Prior to her work with Common Sense, Erin taught public high school students and adult English learners in Kansas City. Her time as a National Writing Project teacher consultant nurtured her passion for student digital creation and media literacy. She has bachelor's degrees in English and secondary education and a master's degree in instructional design and technology. Erin loves to knit, read, hike, and bake. But who has time for hobbies with two young kids? In her free time these days, you'll find her hanging out at playgrounds, the zoo, and the beach with her family.