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The Forgotten Elements of Digital Citizenship

Help students live better, more responsible digital lives.

Steven Anderson | October 23, 2014

The week of Oct. 19-25 is dedicated to raising awareness about digital citizenship. Teachers across the country help students understand how to live better, more responsible digital lives.

Two elements of digital citizenship -- security and online etiquette (especially cyberbullying) -- tend to get the most attention. Throughout October, many schools turn their attention to bullying prevention. Lessons, conversations, and statements of empowerment fill school hallways as students, parents, and communities demonstrate that they won’t stand for the pain that cyberbullying can bring. There's no question that for anyone using digital resources, understanding the most appropriate ways to behave and protect information is key. However, let's not forget about the other nine elements of digital citizenship as detailed by Mike Ribble:

  • Access -- Understanding and being aware of who doesn't have access to digital resources.
  • Commerce -- Understanding how to protect financial information.
  • Communication -- Understanding the appropriate ways to communicate in the digital world.
  • Health and Wellness -- Understanding how to protect your well-being when using digital resources.
  • Literacy -- Understanding where information comes from and how to analyze it effectively.
  • Etiquette -- Understanding how to treat others in digital spaces.
  • Law -- Understanding the rules and regulations that come with using digital resources.
  • Rights and Responsibilities -- Understanding what rights you have when using digital resources.
  • Security -- Understanding how to protect your personal information when using digital resources.

Consider turning students' attention to some of the other elements of digital citizenship and help them become more well-rounded digital citizens.

Focus on Digital Literacy
One of the elements that needs more attention than it currently gets is digital literacy: understanding where our information comes from and how to ensure we get the best information possible from digital resources. As educators, we’ve all seen students set out on a research project and bring back information that isn’t accurate or even correct at all.

Take the time to work with all students to help them understand the best ways to determine the accuracy and reliability of the information they find. This skill will benefit them far beyond the research process. Check out this primer on understanding digital literacy to learn how easy it is to integrate these concepts.

Focus on Digital Law
Many states have laws that protect the rights of victims of cyberbullying or identity theft. And often, lessons of digital citizenship include lessons on helping students understand these parts of the law. However, what's often missing is conversations on plagiarism and, even more important, copyright. While plagiarism is usually covered in digital and information literacy lessons, copyright outside of the written word doesn't get as much attention. In a culture with instant access to music, movies, and games, it's necessary for us all to recognize the rights of the creators.

For younger students, Copyright Kids is a great place to start. For older students, Teaching Copyright has lots of information.

Focus on Digital Health and Wellness
Just as there's a movement to get kids exercising and moving, we should also help students with their emotional health. Part of this focus on digital health and wellness is on the effects that cyberbullying can have on students. In addition, we need to remember what the overuse of technology can do to our health and wellness. This is particularly important for older students, as the effects of Internet addiction and device obsession can severely interfere with their learning. This wiki has lots more resources to investigate.

These are just a few elements of digital citizenship that don't always get enough attention. The Common Sense Scope and Sequence has more resources and lessons to help you set up a well-rounded digital citizenship program.

I’ve been curating a Collection on Common Sense Education that has additional resources to check out. I’ll be adding to it as I uncover more helpful tools for your digital citizenship program. Be sure to check that out and share your own resource suggestions in the comments below.

And if you're interested in learning how you can create a comprehensive digital citizenship program that lasts the entire year, check out my Common Sense webinar over at edWeb.