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What is Digital Citizenship? 

The short answer is “digital citizenship is the safe and responsible use of digital tools.” The longer answer is that is it really much more than this… let us show you with a simple video from our curriculum for middle school students:

Teach your students about digital citizenship...


Every student today will use technology to connect with others in all kinds of new ways, becoming a “citizen” of various online communities you may or may not know about. Understanding how to be a good community member offline is fairly easy—the real world is governed by rules, laws, and norms established over time—but that’s not the case online. Many online communities lack rules, laws, and norms, and if there are any, they are sometimes hard for students to figure out (think of age restrictions buried in the “terms of use” for most games or social media sites). Plus, who cares when online rules are broken?

That’s why it’s so important to teach students how to be good citizens online and off. Teachers who deliver our Cyber Civics curriculum do this by teaching students about the five “themes of citizenship.”* 


Here is a lesson we hope you will share with your own students


Tell your students that every good citizen—online and offline— should demonstrate: ​​

  • Honesty. Be truthful and fair. Good citizens must be honest with others, and with themselves. 

  • Compassion. Show care for people and reverence for living things. Compassion gives citizens an emotional bond with their world.

  • Respect. Show regard or consideration for others, and even toward inanimate things or ideas. Good citizens should have respect for laws and reverence for all living things.

  • Responsibility. Be answerable and accountable. Citizens should recognize that their actions have an effect, either positive or negative, upon others. 

  • Courage. Do the right thing even when it’s unpopular, difficult, or dangerous. Many people throughout history—including Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and Mahatma Gandhi—have demonstrated great courage.

Then, do the following: 

  • Tell your students that in the offline world the traits above are generally expected of good citizens. They are norms that civilizations have established over time.

  • Talk to your students about all the offline communities they belong to: sports teams, classroom, city, state, country, even family. Ask them to tell you how they might demonstrate these citizenship principles in one of these communities. Be sure to discuss what it would be like if these communities did not follow these principles (for example, ask them to imagine what it would be like to play soccer without rules or a referee!). 

  • Next, discuss the online communities your students, or you, might belong to—a social media network or a gaming community, for example. Ask them how the citizenship principles might be demonstrated in one of these communities (how would a community member of Snapchat demonstrate “courage,” for example). Be sure to ask students to tell you what it would be like if these communities did not (or do not) follow these same principles​.

Citizenship of the Classroom
Sample student work. Students applied the five themes to their classroom community.
* “Teaching Good Citizenship’s Five Themes,” Education World (n.d.) Retrieved on November 2, 2017 from

Prefer to Listen?  

In this podcast, Cyber Civics founder Diana Graber talks to Dr. Robyn Silverman about digital citizenship and more.


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