Teaching Students Digital Citizenship

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 4

4. Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility – Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.

a. Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources.

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.2 Element – Communicating with Students

1.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher’s explanation of content is appropriate and connects with students’ knowledge and experience.

Digital Citizenship

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The internet has become an integral part of education as it enables more dynamic classroom learning. However, it also poses risks to young students and the laws and codes of acceptable conduct can be confusing. It is important for teachers to help children understand the importance of safe, responsible use of online resources. On the International Society for Technology in Education website, Mike Ribble describes essential elements to consider when navigating the web. These fundamentals are meant to provide teachers with a way to approach the subject with students and ensure that they are covering all of the pertinent information. Ribble (2014) suggests that there are nine basic components to digital citizenship:


1.Digital access: Advocating for equal digital rights and access is where digital citizenship starts.

2.Digital etiquette: Rules and policies aren’t enough — we need to teach everyone about appropriate conduct online.

3.Digital law: It’s critical that users understand it’s a crime to steal or damage another’s digital work, identity or property.


4.Digital communication: With so many communication options available, users need to learn how to make appropriate decisions.

5.Digital literacy: We need to teach students how to learn in a digital society.

6.Digital commerce: As users make more purchases online, they must understand how to be effective consumers in a digital economy.


7.Digital rights and responsibilities: We must inform people of their basic digital rights to privacy, freedom of speech, etc.

8.Digital safety and security: Digital citizens need to know how to protect their information from outside forces that might cause harm.

9.Digital health and wellness: From physical issues, such as repetitive stress syndrome, to psychological issues, such as internet addiction, users should understand the health risks of technology. (Ribble, 2014)

The complex nature of these standards makes it necessary for educators to explicitly instruct students on how to responsibly use the internet so that they can become engaged and active members of online communities. Like in any community, there are standard behaviors expected of conscientious online participants. It can feel like the internet is not a part of real life so students are not always on their best behavior or participating in productive activities. Online bullying is a major issue that educators need to tackle directly in their classroom. Teachers need to stress to students that anything said or done online is just as real as when they are interacting with one of their classroom peers.

In classrooms, online activity is not just used for connecting students with one another or collaborating with classroom communities around the world. The main thing it is used for is research. The reason the internet is such a great resource for finding material is because it is constantly updated and added to. However, that amount of information can be overwhelming. Students often feel that anything found online is reputable so it is critical for teachers to instruct them on how to distinguish good sources from bad ones. Educators play a huge role in how students learn to conduct research and those skills are important to life-long success. 

It is also important to help students understand that not everything found on the internet is free to use and adapt. Copyright laws and creative commons licensing can be a difficult topic so it is imperative that teachers take the time to go over the intricacies of it with their students. Many young children believe that laws and acceptable behavior are not relevant online because it feels disconnected from reality. It is crucial to teach them that their actions always matter and that there will be consequences if they break the law online. Once students have learned all of the aspects of proper digital conduct, they will be empowered to elevate their learning using the vast array of material the internet has to offer.

Ribble, M. (2014) Essential elements of digital citizenship. International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=101

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