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Quick Digital Citizenship Activities for Middle and High School Distance Learning

Use these short, self-guided activities to create a positive culture around digital learning.

Kelly Mendoza | July 30, 2020

Digital citizenship will be especially important this fall as middle and high school students across the country return to school virtually, in one form or another. Students will be on their devices, communicating, collaborating, and creating with digital tools more than ever before. But amid the pressures of distance learning, we know that educators may not have as much instructional time for things like digital citizenship.

To address this, we've pulled together a collection of short digital citizenship activities that students can complete independently, or with parents or caregivers. All the videos and games below emphasize the importance of digital citizenship as a foundation for digital learning.

Watch and Reflect Videos: 15-Minute Activities

Our videos are a great way to spark critical thinking and discussion around a variety of digital citizenship topics. Our "Teen Voices" videos feature interviews with real teens talking about issues they've encountered online, from media addiction to online hate speech and more.

Also, we worked with our partners at KQED Education to produce three digital-citizenship-themed episodes for their Above the Noise series. These videos ask big, thought-provoking questions, such as "Does being online actually make us act meaner than we would in person?" before diving into actual scientific research on the topic.

The activities below include links to handouts so students can watch the video and answer the discussion questions independently. You can also take a few minutes of class time to discuss students' responses and facilitate dialogue about these topics.

Note: Spanish subtitles are available for all videos.

6th Grade

  • Digital Life 101 (Media Balance & Well-Being). Students learn all the ways we consume, create, and share digital media in our daily lives, then reflect on its omnipresence.
  • Teen Voices: Presenting Yourself Online (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students hear from teens about the benefits and drawbacks of presenting themselves differently (or even anonymously) to others online, and consider what it means to "be yourself" in digital spaces.
  • Teen Voices: Who You're Talking To Online (Relationships & Communication). Students hear what other teens have to say about meeting and talking to known and unknown people online, think about the types of information they're sharing about themselves, and consider strategies to keep their online friendships safe and positive.

7th Grade

  • Digital Footprint (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students learn to think carefully before posting and sharing information by comparing their digital footprints to things such as a permanent marker, a copy machine, or a jumbotron at a stadium.
  • Teen Voices: Friendships and Social Media (Relationships & Communication). Students hear what other teens have to say about using social media to connect with friends, consider the complications and distractions that can happen, and think critically about how social media affects their own relationships.

8th Grade

  • Teen Voices: The Pressure to Be Connected (Media Balance & Well-Being). Students hear what other teens have to say about how digital media has them feeling "hooked," then think critically about their own digital media use.
  • Teen Voices: Oversharing and Your Digital Footprint (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students hear what other teens have to say about sharing on social media, then think critically about the decisions they're making any time they post something online about themselves or others.
  • Teen Voices: Sexting, Relationships, and Risks (Relationships & Communication). Students can hear other teens' honest -- and sometimes frank -- thoughts about the pressures and risks that come with sexting, then consider how they might react in similar situations.

10th Grade

  • Teen Voices: Who Are You on Social Media? (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students hear teens reflect on how they decide to represent themselves in the digital world, reflecting on whether they represent the self they're aiming to be.
  • Teen Voices: Friendships and Boundaries (Relationships & Communication). Students listen to other teens' thoughts and feelings about having and maintaining boundaries in friendships online, in a world of being constantly connected.
  • Teen Voices: Hate Speech Online (Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech). Students hear teens share their candid thoughts about xenophobia and online hate speech, including why they think it happens and ways to respond.

11th Grade

  • When Is Your Brain Ready for Social Media? From KQED Education (Privacy & Security). Students consider that in the United States, children are required to be 13 to sign up for most social media platforms, and think about what age kids should be allowed to start using social media, in light of privacy and social development issues.
  • Is the Internet Making You Meaner? From KQED Education (Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech). Students consider whether and how people might be meaner online than they in person, and explore what causes online disinhibition.

12th Grade

  • Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much? From KQED Education (Media Balance & Well-Being) Is screen time good or bad for us? Students explore what the scientific research says about screen time, and consider that it's not just about the time spent but the quality of the time.
  • Civil Discourse Online (Relationships & Communication) Students hear from Cameron Kasky, Parkland school shooting survivor and March for Our Lives activist, on what he learned about civil discourse online and how to foster common ground with others, even in disagreement.

Digital Compass: 15-Minute Games

Digital Compass is our award-winning suite of engaging games for middle schoolers. Games give students the freedom to explore how the decisions they make in their digital lives can affect their relationships and futures. Students can complete each game online and independently, and they don't need to download an app or register. Although every Digital Compass game is appropriate for any middle schooler, we've offered some grade recommendations below.

Note: Also available in Spanish.

See the Educator Guide and FAQs for more details.

6th Grade

  • Insta-Slammed (Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech). Students play Pepper, who is popular at school but has a lot to learn when it comes to being a good friend, as she gets caught up in the the newest app craze of Cute or Brute.
  • Kung Fu Fibber (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students play Hutch, who's determined to master all things sports-related, but has yet to learn how to master his own self-image online.
  • Far-Fetched Facts (News & Media Literacy). Students play Jay, who has been assigned a research report assignment on an endangered insect, but who's overwhelmed by searching for credible resources.

7th Grade

  • Digital Heartbreak (Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech). Students play Rhonda, who makes decisions on a roller coaster of digital drama when her friend gets swept up in a new romance.
  • Me, Me, Meme (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students play Wink, who is competing with her friend to land the internship of her dreams, but may be tarnishing her digital footprint in the process.
  • Hack-a-Wrong (News & Media Literacy). Students play Seven, who is determined to make his mark with a winning invention, but whose creative process is influenced by the "inspiration," as well as distractions, he finds at every turn.

8th Grade

  • Break It Down (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students play Breaker, who is tempted to become famous by posting his dance moves online and managing his digital footprint on his journey to fame.
  • Sticky Situation (Privacy & Security). Students play Miko, who finds herself in a sticky situation after signing up for the newest app everyone is obsessed with, then quickly realizing the sacrifice to her online privacy.

Social Media Test Drive: 20-Minute Games

Created by the Social Media Lab at Cornell University in collaboration with Common Sense Education, Social Media Test Drive prepares middle school students for real-life experiences and dilemmas in the digital world through practice within a realistic social media simulation. You can send individual modules to students to complete independently. See the Educator Guide and FAQs or more information.

6th Grade

  • Is This Private Information? (Relationships & Communication). Students learn what information is safe to share with different audiences on social media and what information is inappropriate to share.
  • Scams and Phishing (Privacy & Security). Students learn to understand the consequences of identity theft, and how to take action against phishing scams on social media.
  • Online Identities (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students learn to manage self-presentation, and understand how online identities can change with different audiences on social media.
  • News in Social Media (News & Media Literacy). Students understand why fake news exists, and how to identify the telltale signs of fake news on social media.

7th Grade

  • How to Be an Upstander (Cyberbullying, Digital Drama & Hate Speech). Students identify signs of cyberbullying, and practice how to respond when they see others being cyberbullied.
  • Ads on Social Media (Privacy & Security). Students explore how companies collect user data to display targeted ads on social media, and learn how to identify ads and sponsored posts within their feed.

8th Grade

  • Shaping Your Digital Footprint (Digital Footprint & Identity). Students explore how actions on social media create a digital footprint, and learn skills to shape digital footprints positively.
  • Healthy Social Media Habits (Media Balance & Well-Being). Students explore how social media platforms are designed to keep their attention, and how to practice healthy habits for media balance.
  • Social Media Privacy (Privacy & Security). Students learn how social media sites collect information about users, and learn strategies for protecting privacy on social media.