What is Digital Citizenship? Why Does it Matter?

What is Digital Citizenship anyway?

The term Digital Citizenship has exploded in recent education discussions in the recent pushes to have it taught to students from Elementary to High School.

Some Districts require Digital Citizenship to be taught as a core to student development. So, what does this term even mean and why is it suddenly so important in our schools?

There’s no question that the majority of today’s kids grow up with a device (smart phone, tablet, etc.) within reach most of the time. Parents have used these devices as easy and cheap babysitters. Children and adults alike have been drawn to the immediate access to just about anything you can dream up. The ability to create anything, learn about everything, and connect with others leaves us wanting more.

Let us suggest that before you hand your child a smart phone, that you pause for a minute and have a conversation with them.

What is Digital Citizenship?

According to Digital Citizenship “means the norms of appropriate, responsible, and healthy behavior related to technology use, including digital literacy, ethics, etiquette, and security.”

However, just as good citizenship is more than not breaking the law, digital citizenship is more than just avoiding harms online (or learning internet safety). Technology can enhance and magnify the ability of youth and adults to contribute to and serve in the community and even in the world. But youth and adults need to work together to consider and create more ideas around how technology can be used for good — to facilitate collaboration, creation, communication, and positive contributions to family and civic life.

What is a Digital Citizen?

Defining iCitizenship, the students from USJ said, “An iCitizen is a citizen of the world. An iCitizen humanizes the person next to them along with the person across the screen. An iCitizen promotes consciousness and empathy. There is always room to grow, connections to forge, communities beyond your backyard to contribute to, and people to benefit from. We are members of the online world, even though there are no rules, regulations, or laws, we must treat others the way we want to be treated.”

Becoming a good citizen both in real life and online require similar understandings in values, empathy, caring about others, connecting with others, etc.

Teach children by example. Show how to care for others using technology. Show how every interaction we have online influences someone’s day. Show service, learning, connection, and empathy. Teach the WHY more than the WHAT and the HOW.

Why is Digital Citizenship important?

At the national Digital Citizenship Summit in 2017 a panel of experts (including two youth!) shared amazing insights that are worth reading.

Highlights from this DigCitSummit 2017 Panel:


Dani Sloan, an educator, reminds us there is more to citizenship than just standing by, “There’s an element of participation… so, if I pass a piece of trash and don’t pick it up, am I a good citizen?”

Teach what TO do

Dr. Oluwakemi Olurinola shared that technology is newer in Nigeria. At this initial stage, it’s important to teach them now, what to do! It takes a community to raise a child. Everybody has a part to play in raising children with technology. Teach kids that one day people will use their digital image to judge who they are, so teach them to deliberately place positive things on their digital footprint so it matches their C.V.

Talk WITH them

Mark Babbitt, YouTern, promoted talking with students rather than at students. They know more about social media and technology than us. It’s intuitive to them, so talk with them. Talk to them about WHY you should be a good digital citizen, more than the WHAT and HOW.  #NotAboutThemWithoutThem


Curran Dee, DigCitKids, praised using empathy online and talking with kids not at kids. Acknowledge the good things that kids are doing on and offline, not just the bad stuff that’s in all the headlines.

Meaningful Contributions

Adam Moore, therapist, likes to ask “Who are you? and what meaningful contributions do you want to make to the world?” Shift mindset to what meaningful contribution do I want to make? Seeing how connected we are and knowing we can make a meaningful contribution changes how we think.

School Community Councils for positive direction

Rep. Keven Stratton stated that anything we can use that is this powerful can be used for good or for evil. Utah has created School Community Councils to look at opportunities and create positive direction with technology and some safeties to protect technology and students.

Think before you post

Becca, student, recommends to think before you post just like you should think before you say something. Make your two faces that could be created become one. Having good character and knowing how to strengthen and build each other using technology is good digital citizenship.

Side-by-side Learning

Michelle shared, “When you tell your little kid to go clean their room. What I pictured and what they actually did was not the same.” We want to create a culture where the side-by-side learning is happening. This is a learning process for all of us. There is no curriculum to solve all of our problems.

Knowledge of Digital Citizenship = more success with STEM

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead shared an interesting study done that shows those who are better digital citizens actual do better in STEM related careers.

Our Voice

People may feel like they don’t have a voice. The opportunity is here for people to share their voice, their positive voice.

Learn about Digital Citizenship

Dina Alexander even had to change the subtitle of her book to say, “A story about using technology for good” instead of a “Story about Digital Citizenship.” Not one parent knew what Digital Citizenship was. She encourages all parents to ask questions and learn more about digital citizenship.

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