🎧 Listen to an audio version of this post:
Whether you teach elementary, core subjects or electives, making digital citizenship part of your instruction is essential for all of your learners. Our students use technology for learning, connecting with friends and entertainment. But it can be overwhelming at times, and it’s important to develop skills to navigate the internet in healthy and safe ways. So how can you help kids practice digital citizenship in school? Read on for digital citizenship activities you can use in elementary, middle school or high school.
What is digital citizenship in the classroom?
When you teach digital citizenship, you teach learners how to use the internet responsibly. Many kids are online every day, so it’s important for educators to help them stay safe and develop healthy boundaries with technology.
Incorporating digital citizenship into the classroom can also reduce issues such as online distractions and cyberbullying, while also helping learners evaluate internet sources and properly credit authors and content creators. By helping kids build digital citizenship skills from an early age, they’ll also be better prepared for careers beyond K-12.
What are examples of digital citizenship?
There are nine elements of digital citizenship that you can incorporate into instruction. You can focus on any of the elements, no matter what age your learners are.
- Digital access: Advocating for learners, families and staff members to have equitable access to technology, digital resources and the internet.
- Digital commerce: Teaching learners how to safely make purchases online and discover careers that they can pursue in e-commerce.
- Digital communication: Teaching learners to communicate appropriately for their audience and message.
- Digital literacy: Teaching learners how to evaluate online sources and give proper credit to sources.
- Digital etiquette: Teaching learners about how to use the internet in positive ways.
- Digital law: Teaching learners about legal issues concerning technology and how it applies to them.
- Digital rights and responsibility: Teaching learners about their rights online but also how to protect others online and reach out to adults for help.
- Digital health and wellness: Teaching learners how to use the internet in a balanced, healthy way and prioritize when they should use technology.
- Digital security and privacy: Teaching learners how to protect their privacy online and on their devices.
What activities help develop digital citizenship?
The following activities and lessons allow learners to explore digital citizenship issues relating to their lives and ages. You’ll find activities for kindergarten all the way up to high school. Incorporate any of these five types of activities in your upcoming curriculum plans to help learners develop their digital citizenship skills.
1. Common Sense Education digital citizenship activities
Common Sense Education offers interactive activities and lessons that span grade levels. They address topics that help learners become more responsible digital citizens. The lesson plans include slides, videos, handouts and quizzes. They are also available in English or Spanish.
- Learning how to take a break from technology
- What to do if someone is mean to you online
- How to give credit to others for their work
- What information you should keep to yourself online
- How to de-escalate digital drama
- Finding credible news sources
- Understanding your digital footprint on social media
- Chatting safely online
- Online hoaxes and fake videos
- How online tracking works
These links will bring you to a page full of activities and lessons:
- Digital citizenship curriculum: Grades K-2
- Digital citizenship curriculum: Grades 3-5
- Digital citizenship curriculum: Grades 6-8
- Digital citizenship curriculum: Grades 9-12
2. PBS Learning Media videos
PBS Learning has a video series for middle school and high school students called “Above the Noise.” These videos discuss important digital citizenship topics that relate to teens’ lives, the ways they use the internet and questions they may have.
Each video is aligned to learning standards and includes instructional resources such as viewing notes and handouts with questions learners can answer as they watch the video. Other resources include educator guides, background reading for learners and glossaries. You can also assign the videos directly to Google Classroom.
Explore how to use SEL to benefit learners and retain your teachers
Check out our SEL strategies that can help you create a more positive and equitable school and district culture.
3. Google’s Be Internet Awesome
Google offers a free program called Be Internet Awesome that teaches kids about digital citizenship and helps them make responsible decisions online.
Interland, which is part of the Be Internet Awesome program, is an interactive game and world all about exploring digital citizenship topics. Google describes it as “an online adventure that puts the key lessons of digital safety into hands-on practice with four challenging games.” Of course, kids love games, so this is a fun way to teach them about important issues they’ll come across online and help reinforce digital citizenship skills.
The digital citizenship games include:
- Mindful Mountain: Share with Care
- Tower of Treasure: Secure Your Secrets
- Kind Kingdom: It’s Cool to Be Kind
- Reality River: Don’t Fall for Fake
In addition to Interland, the Be Internet Awesome program also includes a curriculum with 10 units. Google, The Net Safety Collaborative and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition collaborated on these comprehensive units.
4. Digital citizenship Workspaces
Hāpara Workspace is a teaching and learning tool that allows educators to share interactive lessons, units and courses. With Workspace, you can quickly create student groups and differentiate instruction or share personalized resources. Learners can explore topics and standards at their own pace, and it’s easy to give formative feedback to learners along the way.
Hāpara users can make a copy of the following Workspaces and modify them for their learners. Or you can grab any of the free resources that are included in the Workspaces.
If you have a digital citizenship lesson idea of your own and are a Hāpara user, create a new Workspace to build personalized pathways for your learners. If your school or district uses Hāpara, and you want to learn more about how to create Workspaces and collaborate with colleagues, sign up for the Workspace micro-credential course. If your school or district does not yet use Hāpara tools, learn more by signing up for a demo.
The following Workspaces help learners in elementary, middle school and high school better understand digital citizenship so they can apply the elements day to day. You’ll find learning goals, resources, formative assessments and extended learning opportunities.
- Digital citizenship: Grade 5: In this upper elementary Workspace, learners explore and define digital citizenship so they can navigate the internet safely.
- What Is Digital Citizenship?: This Workspace for grades 6-8 introduces learners to digital citizenship.
- Digital citizenship: Grade 6: This engaging middle school Workspace includes videos and a variety of activities and formative assessments to help learners understand the elements of digital citizenship.
- Digital Citizenship: Grades 6-12: In this Workspace, learners explore best practices for creating a digital footprint and collaborate with group members on assessments.
- Digital Citizenship: Grades 9-10: In this high school Workspace, learners identify and study digital citizenship as it relates to teenagers.
5. Hāpara Card Talks
Helping kids apply the elements of digital citizenship and make connections to their lives in and out of school helps them understand its importance. Whether learners question rules related to internet usage or need support in how to use social media safely, opening a dialogue is one of the best ways to approach digital citizenship topics.
Hāpara Card Talks allows you to have conversations with learners about digital citizenship issues. It lets learners share their points of view and online experiences, as well as what it takes to be a good digital citizen. The prompts and questions could drive class conversations, small group discussions or a think-pair-share activity. You could also use them as journal prompts so learners have a chance to reflect on the topics independently before heading into a discussion.
Centering staff member discussions around digital citizenship is a great way for adults to build their skills, too. Hāpara Card Talks also include conversation starters for educators. With these educator conversation starters, you can have impactful discussions about:
- How you use classroom technology
- Your relationship to technology outside of the classroom
- Digital equity
- School policies
- Social media and more
How do you address digital citizenship instruction in your classroom or school? Digital citizenship is essential for learners in every grade level, so don’t be afraid to start teaching it in lower elementary. Then continue to build upon those skills and touch upon new digital citizenship issues in higher grade levels. Whether you embed lessons, incorporate multimedia or engage in meaningful conversations, make digital citizenship a priority in your classroom instruction.