Digital Citizenship


Digital citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use. By embracing technology and to explore its various forms, students have a responsibility to model proper digital etiquette in using technology. Navigating the web intelligently and making appropriate decisions when using technology is an example of a good digital citizen. We want our children and students to carefully navigate the web while adhering to protocols that are symbolic of good digital citizenship.

Common Sense Media identifies 8 cross-curricular units of Digital Citizenship. Those units, along with key points of information presented in those units, are presented below.

  1. Internet Safety is a broad unit that provides general guidelines for online safety and it encompasses information from most of the 7 other units. The Internet is a great place to learn and develop rewarding relationships, however, to do so safely requires vigilance. This unit begins the process of developing responsible digital citizenship by instructing students on staying safe through employing strategies such as distinguishing between inappropriate contact and positive connections.
  2. Privacy and Security educates students on protecting their data and identity. These days much of our information, both casual and private, is online. This unit provides information on keeping that information private, as well as the correct way to secure that information. Protecting yourself from scams and schemes, and how to analyze privacy policies are also part of this unit.
  3. Relationships and Communication explores both offline and online relationships. The beauty of the Internet is that it brings people closer together and fosters relationships between people from across the World. This unit stimulates students to think critically about developing relationships with people online; explores the risks and responsibilities of carrying out romantic relationships in the digital world; and examines the different pressures teens face when growing up online.
    Other important topics in this unit include:
    • stereotypes of men and women in the media
    • what it means to be responsible to and respectful of offline and online communities as a way to learn how to be good digital citizens
    • writing clear and respectful posts
    • how to communicate effectively by email
  4. Cyberbullying is any kind of online behavior that makes people feel sad, scared, angry, or upset. This unit explores what cyberbullying is, how to prevent it, and who to report it too. It encourages children to take an active role of an upstander and build positive and supportive relationships online. There are also multiple resources that help you talk to your children about it.
  5. Digital Footprint and Reputation, a.k.a. Digital Shadow, is permanent information that a student places on the web, normally through Social Media, and is both searchable and can be copied and used by others elsewhere. Our digital world is permanent, and with each post, students are building a digital footprint. By encouraging students to self-reflect before they self-reveal, they will consider how what they share online can impact themselves and others. Students also learn how to respect the privacy of others. The key takeaway of this unit is to be thoughtful in what you post online as it will be with you forever and may have devastatingly negative consequences.
  6. [Digital] Self-image and Identity is concerned with how students represent themselves online, and the relationship between online and offline selves. In so doing, students are encouraged to reflect on the role of digital media in their lives and examine the effects on their sense of self, their reputation, and their relationships.
  7. Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. It equips our students with the critical skills necessary to become independent, discerning lifelong learners. Students learn how to evaluate the quality, credibility, and validity of websites, and give proper credit.
  8. Creative Credit and Copyright concerns the legal and ethical dimensions of respecting creative work. The goal is to produce responsible digital citizens that understand the difference between taking inspiration from the creative work of others and appropriating that work without permission.


Why does cyberspace matter to parents and children?

We want our students to be equipped with the necessary tools to navigate powerful technology. In order for our students to make good choices, they have to learn how the digital world operates. Students are exposed to making choices that are greater than their maturity level. The technology available to students can be a great resource and also have a harmful effect on them at the same time. Knowing Digital Ethics could be the difference between an enjoyable experience or a harmful one while surfing the web. provides an excellent resource for Internet Safety called Raising Digital Citizens.

Caregivers can keep children and students safe in the cyberspace

Today, children begin using technology by the time they are 1 ½ years old. Navigating cyberspace (the Web) is part of their lives. Children have the power to visit anywhere or anyone they want at the touch of a finger. Ensuring that our children are safe is paramount to their future. The following are steps parents and educators can use to keep children and students safe:

  • Become and remain positively engaged in your students online activities.
  • Discuss proper etiquette for cyberspace
  • Be careful about who you give personal information to and what kinds of things you share.
  • Consider establishing establish a technology curfew which limits when and where technology can be used.
  • Create a media agreement with children and students
  • More extensive safety suggestions can be found here from
  • Talk with your student about online predators. This fact sheet from the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire provides key points when doing so.

Dangers parents should know about

Students navigating through cyberspace will face many safety concerns. These concerns are very real, parents should have a discussion with their children and students so that necessary steps can be taken. The Internet has drastically changed the way that children interact with the world. Expectations that all parties exercise personal safety and minimizing security risks to private information on the internet is a top priority. Students have access to tools to express their creativity, and individuals from around the world. But, offering all these new and fascinating ways to connect with the world, cyberspace also has inherent risks. Some of the harmful side effects of navigating within cyberspace are:

Raising Digital Citizens
Teach your children to become good digital citizens with these resources. See more at:


These days much of our information is online. It is important to keep that information private and secure. Navigating cyberspace presents other problems as well, such as scams and identity theft. Below find key tips for keeping yourself and your data secure.

Protecting Yourself Online

Stronger passwordsStrong passwords are required to help protect your identity. Here is a list of 10 Dos and Donts for Powerful Passwords.

Dos and Donts

  1. Do make passwords eight or more characters long. (Longer passwords are harder to crack than shorter ones.)
  2. Dont use dictionary words as your password. (Others could guess your password this way.)
  3. Do include letters, numbers, and symbols in your password. (It can be harder to guess passwords with this combination.)
  4. Do change your password at least every six months. (This way, even if someone does guess your password, they wont be able to get into your account for long.)
  5. Dont use private identity information in your password. (Others could guess your password this way.) Never use any of the following in your password:
    1. Full (first and last) name
    2. Date of birth
    3. Mothers maiden name, Dads middle name, etc.
    4. Street address
    5. School name or school address
    6. Credit card numbers
    7. Phone numbers
    8. Social Security number
  6. Dont use your phone number as your password. (Others could guess your password this way.)
  7. Dont use your nickname as your password. (It could be easy for others to guess.)
  8. Do give your password to your parent or guardian. (They will help you remember it if you forget it.)
  9. Dont share your password with your friends. (Even if you trust them, they might unintentionally do something that puts you or your information at risk.)
  10. Do create a password that you can remember. (Its okay to create a random password, but keep in mind that it should be one that you can remember, or else it wont do you much good.)

Use Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) where possible This process requires the presentation of at least two independent authentication factors. The first is a knowledge factor. It is something only the user knows, which is usually a password. The second piece of information comes from something the user possess, e.g., a text message sent by the site to your phone. It is important to add MFA to all possible accounts because even if someone knows or guesses your password, they will not be able to access your account without the randomly generated second factor that must be presented for identification. Many big sites, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple, offer MFA for your protection.

Carefully select what and when you share information Be careful to not share your full name, address, and account numbers. Any messages in cyberspace that request you to share private information are immediate signs that you might be facing a scam artist. If a scam is suspected, do not reply or click on links.

Dealing with junk/spam There is more spam sent daily than there are people living on the earth; some 10 billion spam emails are sent. A significant amount of this junk email is nefarious. Internet junk mail should never be opened and immediately deleted. If you cant identify the mail, its probably not worth opening. Even if you can identify the sender, open email with caution and never click on links in these email. To prevent your operating system from becoming compromised, manually enter the url into the browser. Links that appear to be correct may, in fact, point to a different url. See the example from Microsofts phishing page below.

In the picture, notice that while the blue link says Wood Grove Bank, the true url is pointed to

Phishing scams are common both on and offline. According to Microsoft, phishing is a type of scam that can come through email messages, websites, and phone calls. They are designed to steel your information, identity or money. Cybercriminals can do this by installing malicious software on your computer or stealing personal information off of your computer. The Securities and Exchange Commission provides useful advice for avoiding many of the phishing scams that you might run into.

Today, general scams that are sent to everyone are giving way to Social Engineering scams. Webroot defines Social Engineering as the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information. The types of information these criminals are seeking can vary, but when individuals are targeted the criminals are usually trying to trick you into giving them your passwords or bank information, or access your computer to secretly install malicious softwarethat will give them access to your passwords and bank information as well as giving them control over your computer. Visit the Webroot site to see the most common scams and how to protect yourself from them.

Some examples include:

  • Messages that respond to a question you never had.
  • Messages asking for help or stating that you are a winner
  • Messages that looks like they is from a friend of yours.
  • Messages containing links or downloads.

Webroot provides these tips for protecting yourself:

  • Slow down Spammers want you to act first and think later.
  • Research the facts Be suspicious of any unsolicited messages.
  • Delete any request for financial information or passwords. If you get asked to reply to a message with personal information, its a scam.
  • Reject requests for help or offers of help Legitimate companies and organizations do not contact you to provide help.
  • Dont let a link be in control of where you land Stay in control by finding the website yourself using a search engine to be sure you land where you intend to land.

Privacy Once something is posted or transmitted, there is a permanent record of it. Even with programs that claim to delete content such as SnapChat or Wickr, content is recoverable. Moreover, other users can take screenshots of content. Be thoughtful in what you post online as it will be with you forever and may have devastatingly negative consequences.

All social networks have different terms of service (TOS) and privacy settings. Learn about the privacy settings and set yours to protect your family online. Most importantly, never say or do anything online that you wouldnt say or do in front of your parents or guardians.

Netsmartz provides these additional tips for maintaining your students privacy online:

  • Make sure that your child takes advantage of the privacy settings on social networking sites.
  • Pre-approve the pictures and videos your child posts online.
  • Remind your child never to post e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers.
  • Tell your child that passwords should only be shared with parents and guardians.
  • Teach your child not to respond to any e-mails requesting personal information and to delete e-mails from unknown senders.
  • Discuss how to keep screen names and e-mail addresses gender-neutral, appropriate, and free of any information that could reveal identity.
  • Encourage your child to tell you right away if anything happens online that bothers or frightens him or her.

Who has your data? Advise students that companies and websites collect data and utilize collected data to personalize content for their users. While this can be incredibly useful for maintaining a personalized online experience, it is also a privacy concern. Know the TOS for the sites you use. Understand that nothing is free. Sites that offer services for free do so by monetizing your personal data. Google provides incredible services that many of us cannot do without, however, they fund these services with your personal information. Other sites have similar business models. These models are perfectly acceptable; just understand what you are giving up for those services.


Relationships between teens are like riding a roller coaster. Teen couples experience an array of emotions that lead to flirting, holding hands, arguing, fighting, breaking up and making up. Now introduce cyberspace to the relationship, where teens frequently publicize every aspect of these relationships warts and all, and the emotions can be amplified. The histories of these relationships become cemented on social networks forever and contribute to a persons Digital Footprint.

Learning how to establish, maintain, and negotiate appropriate relationships is important for children to develop healthy relationships. When faced with a bumpy road in a relationship, children will mimic their caregivers and role models. Caregivers should discuss relationship issues with teens very early. Common Sense Media provides some keys for helping children to develop healthy relationships both on and offline.

  • Keep communication open and honest.
  • Remind them that you are always available to talk, as are school staff or a friends parent/caregiver.
  • Talk about whats private. Teens may differ with their parents in what they view as private and whats okay to share. But remind them that intimate posts or messages can be copied and shared with thousands of people in an instant.
  • Dont dismiss digital talk. Dont underestimate the power of texts, IMs, and other digital media to strengthen existing relationships. Teen relationships often move fluidly from online to off.


Bullying includes cyberbullying and means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is further defined as unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical behavior, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by an adult or student, that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individuals school performance or participation; and may involve but is not limited to:

  1. teasing
  2. threat
  3. intimidation
  4. stalking
  5. cyberstalking
  6. physical violence
  7. theft
  8. sexual, religious, or racial harassment
  9. public or private humiliation
  10. destruction of property; and
  11. social-exclusion

Ways to Report a Bully:

  • Verbally to an adult at school
  • Via email to school administrator or district office
  • Via a telephone call to school administrator or district office

If you are the victim of bullying:

  • Clearly tell the bully(ies) to stop.
  • Dont ignore the incident. Immediately report the incident to someone at school or seek peer mediation at school. Tell your parent(s)/guardian(s).
  • If the bullying continues after you have clearly told the bully(ies) to stop, make a written record of the incident including date, time, witness or witnesses, and parties involved in the incident.
  • Report the incident immediately to an adult who has authority over the bully(ies); for example: teacher, school counselor, assistant principal, or principal.
  • Avoid being alone with the person(s) who has attempted to bully you in the past.

To minimize the risk of being accused of bullying


  • Keep your hands to yourself.
  • Remember that NO one has a right to harm another person in any way.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Immediately apologize if you accidentally say or do something that has made another person feel oppressed.
  • Report all incidents of bullying behavior you have witnessed to appropriate school personnel.


  • Touch anyone without his or her permission and especially in an inappropriate way.
  • Keep interacting with a person after he or she has perceived your behavior toward him or her as being inappropriate.
  • Make remarks that may cause another person to feel oppressed (stressed, scared, intimidated).


Who Are You Online?

Digital footprints are the records and traces we leave behind us as we use the internet. When we visit websites to get information, do social sharing, send instant messages and email, we leave footprints of our behavior behind. This digital footprint can have both positive and negative consequences.

One side effect of digital footprints is the loss of privacy and anonymity online. As we go from site to site we leave behind evidence of what weve done, where weve been, what weve been thinking, who our friends and families are and more. These footprints continue to build over time. (In other words, they never go away.) Our digital traces can then be linked into a larger and more complete profile and what we consider as private information is now ‘out there in some way, shape, or form. The links between digital footprints, IP addresses, phone numbers, E-commerce, and on-line activities make it possible to attach those actions to a real identity.

Digital footprints in the form of cookies, a small piece of code that identifies a user and tracks their behavior online, offers convenience by keeping you signed into a site so that you do not have to re-type your personal details. Without them, online shopping would be impossible. However, because cookies can track your behavior both within a site and across different sites, they can be used to gather a broad range of information about you including, what sites you visits and which articles or items your view. An excellent treatise on cookies can be found at

When we consciously share information on social media such as Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, we know we lose some degree of privacy. However, we also contribute to our footprint when we enable location services. These services allow location-dependent apps and websites to use information from cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS networks to determine your approximate location. Location services can be turned on or off by the user.

Managing your digital footprint is possible but takes some time, effort, and basic knowledge of the issues. Here is a link to The Internet Society- Manage Your Identity tutorials:

The tutorial discusses a four-layered approach and includes a discussion on managing cookies, checking your privacy settings on things such as permissions on photos and social media sites, remembering that once you share anything, you lose the ability to unshare. The interlocking mesh of social networks, photo sharing sites, blogs, URL shorteners, and republishing services, creates a significant barrier keeping you from controlling and protecting your own information. It is possible to use tools and real-world objects to create boundaries and increase control, however these do take time and effort and realize there is no quick fix.


Who Are You Online?

Your online identity is not the same as your real-world identity. Every website you browse, shop from, or log on to ‘sees you and your characteristics differently. For instance, when you shop or purchase items, that site begins to establish a partial identity for you or whomever is using your name or identity. So, as each site is visited and viewed, your identity is being added to or enhanced. Birthdate information, favorite color, best friend, whether or not you own a pet, likes and dislikes are all being collected as your surf and post. Some of this information is under your control; some may not be or may even be invisible to you. All of it contributes to ‘who you are and what you do. This is known as your digital identity.

An identifier is a way of referring to a collection of a persons characteristics or what is described as a partial identity or persona. Many websites and search engines maintain information about your identity. They then assign you an identifier and store it in your web browser as a cookie. That cookie links together all of your characteristics creating your identity. In other words, it tags you. Some of them may match your real identity and some may not.

Originally, these identifiers were created for convenience and end-user safety. Using cookies and profile information, sites monitor behavior and notice changes in identified behavior. This allows them to protect your interest and possibly identify online fraud. Unfortunately, these identifiers are also keys to your personal information and open the door to those who want to use this information illegally.

In addition to words being stored and used by others, the same is true for all images and/or pictures. Once a picture is posted on line it can downloaded, stored or saved, and changed to depict most anything. Even if the original picture is deleted, the image can still be available on others sites. Quite often people represent themselves online much differently from their ‘real selves. The internet gives people the chance to express different parts of their personality and even try on different personas. Experimenting with how your online self is represented can present some risks as well as benefits.

How to Protect your Digital Identity

  • Keep you passwords private and dont share them
  • Personal information should be PERSONAL. Keep your information safe and private.
  • Remember that digital relationships can be dangerous and be caution should be used.
  • Your email inbox shouldnt be overflowing from unwanted messages. Verify with your friends that they did in fact send an email to you. This ensures you dont open unwanted messages.
  • If you feel uneasy or threatened while in cyberspace, report your suspicions. Click here for a comprehensive list social media administrators.
  • Advocate for your friends and peers. Support your friends when dealing with an issue.


Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. It provides us with the critical skills necessary to become independent, discerning lifelong learners.

As the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (January 10, 1989, Washington, D.C.) says Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.

Society today needs information literacy skills but there is a special focus on our 21st century classrooms. These skills will allow students to succeed in their future chosen paths. Included within information literacy is information technology skills. Information Technology (IT) skills enable the use of computers, software applications, databases, and other forms of technology. Todays students are not confined to learning only from a brick and mortar building or a set of books found on the shelf of a library but are entrenched in an all-encompassing, technology-rich environment. Because of this environment, Information Literacy is not only critical but is central to the mission of education today.

Information literacy and Information Technology skill lessons begin with our youngest learners. Students are taught the use of keywords; what they are, how to select them, and the most efficient way to find information by plugging in those identified keywords. Key to this literacy is knowing how to judge the reliability of a source. Using a website and evaluating its features follows. As students progress through grade levels the scope and sequence of lessons progresses as well. Eventually, technological retrieval and analytical skills not only directly impact our speed and level of learning but also provide the knowledge to help make sound decisions both online and in the real world.


Adapted from Common Sense Media.

What do you think it means when someones creative work is discussed? Have you ever used creative work you found online? When you do use creative work, what thought or care have you taken with that work?

The term creative work refers to all types of information and documents designed or written by someone including writing of all kinds, artwork, photos, videos, and music. There are many ways we use creative work we find online today such as using a photo in a report, posting it on a website or your Facebook page, or even as simple as forwarding it on your cell phone. Before using work created by others, there are many things that should be taken into consideration. There are specific laws that protect the work of others; these laws are called copyright laws. Copyright laws protect the owner and the work they created from pirated use. (Pirated use refers to something that is duplicated and/or distributed without authorization or permission.) First you must consider if the owner will allow the work to be copied and used and if so, then how or where the owner will allow its use. So by asking who owns it, do I have permission to use it, and where am I allowed to use it, the first steps in respecting creative copy and copyright laws are being observed.

There are many other aspects of copyright and fair use laws. Aside from permission, using the information responsibly must be considered. It does matter how and where you use it, if you change the context, and even if the original picture is altered or changed all together. Fair use laws allow you to use only a small part or portion of someones creative work as part of something new. The work cannot be used for commercial purposes and it can only be use in certain ways including schoolwork and education, news reporting, criticism or social commentary, and comedy or parody. When you want to use someones creative work in a way that isnt covered by fair use, you must investigate its copyright status. Often information on how to contact the owner or its acceptable use is referenced on the document itself and adding a footnote and / or internet address is always safe practice.

SEXTING defines sexting as the sending of sexually explicit photos, images, text messages, or e-mails through a cell phone or other mobile device.

What Can You Do To Prevent Sexting?

Due to the devastatingly negative consequences of sexting, it becomes all the more necessary to prevent teens from sexting before it is too late.

Netsmartz provides these tips to help protect children from sexting

  • Before buying your child a cell phone, set rules for its use, including what sort of information and images are appropriate to share via text.
  • Know what safeguards are available on your childs phone, such as turning off and/or blocking texting and picture features.
  • Talk to your child about the possible social, academic, and legal consequences of sexting. They could face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and get in trouble with the law.
  • Encourage your child to not be a bystander or an instigator. If he or she receives a sext, discuss why it is important that he or she not forward the image to anyone else.
  • Remind your child that they can talk to you if they receive a nude picture on their cell phone.
  • Talk to your childs school about its policies on cell phones, cyberbullying, and sexting.
  • Report any nude or semi-nude images that your child receives to law enforcement or contact

Common Sense Media provides these additional tips for caregivers.

  • Dont wait for an incident to happen to your child or your childs friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be uncomfortable, but its better to have the talk before something happens.
  • Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because that happens all the time.
  • Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand how they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation can be hundreds of times worse.
  • Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. Its better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, theyre distributing pornography and thats against the law.
  • Check out Its a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands. Its also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.


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