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What is Digital Citizenship? 

The short answer is “digital citizenship is the safe and responsible use of digital tools.” The long answer is that it's really much more than this… let us show you how we introduce students to digital citizenship with this simple video from the curriculum:

Teach your students about digital citizenship... it's the first step towards digital literacy!

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 “principles of citizenship.”* 


Here is a lesson to share with your own students:

The Five Principles of Citizenship


Tell your students that every good citizen—online and offline—should demonstrate these five principles of citizenship: ​​

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

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

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

  • Courage. Doing 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!).

  • Have your students make small visual displays like this one that show what they discuss!

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

Take a peek at the slides & videos teachers get when they subscribe:

Finally, Listen to a Podcast about Digital Citizenship:


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


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