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What are the nine elements of digital citizenship?

Does your school cover the nine elements of digital citizenship? Explore the elements and why they're important for developing good digital citizens.
Product Updates December 2022-01

Kids and teens today are online more than ever before. In fact, a recent Common Sense Media survey found that 8- to 12-year-olds have about five and a half hours of screen time per day. Teens, on the other hand, use screens for close to eight and half hours. It’s not surprising that the majority of that screen time is dedicated to watching online videos and hanging out on social media platforms. So it’s important for kids and teens to learn how to use online platforms in safe and healthy ways. Schools can help by making the key elements of digital citizenship part of their culture.

What is digital citizenship?

Digital citizenship refers to acting responsibly online. ISTE takes the definition a step further, explaining that digital citizenship is focused on developing “thoughtful, empathetic digital citizens who can wrestle with the important ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity.” 

Learners need to think about their digital footprints and how to use technology in healthy ways. But digital citizenship goes beyond a personal relationship with technology. Kids and teens need to understand how to be a positive citizen who is part of a larger digital community.

Why should your school include digital citizenship in instruction?

Educators have always taught learners how to act responsibly in school and out in the world. It makes sense then to teach them how to navigate the online world. Schools need to protect students as they visit websites, use apps and collaborate digitally. So in addition to installing a powerful web filter, your school should make digital citizenship part of classroom life

ISTE has standards for learners, educators and leaders to help you build a school environment focused on digital citizenship. There are also nine main digital citizenship elements you can embed into instruction, conversations and leadership strategies.

What are the nine key elements of digital citizenship?

Digital access

Not all families have access to technology, such as devices, digital resources and internet connectivity. As a school, it’s important to give every student equitable access to technology for learning, despite their socioeconomic status. Special needs students may also require accommodations or adaptive equipment to help them access technology. Make sure your school team sets aside resources to ensure that learners have access to the technology they need. 

Because parents and guardians may not have access to technology, you should also provide different ways for them to communicate with the school and teachers and access notifications and records. Providing mobile-friendly options, for example, are helpful in cases where parents don’t have access to computers.

Digital commerce 

Most of us shop and do our banking online these days. Some kids have their own Amazon accounts, or they make purchases through online gaming. Our learners need to understand how e-commerce works so they can safely make purchases and protect their money (or their parents’). This includes being able to spot online scams, protecting against identity theft and being careful about spending.

This digital citizenship element also relates to careers in e-commerce. There could be budding entrepreneurs in your school who open up their own online shop someday. Math and language arts educators can embed instruction about digital commerce, or it could be a unit in Career Technical Education (CTE) instruction.

Digital communication 

Digital communication is about teaching learners how to communicate appropriately, depending on the platform and audience. Kids and teens communicate through texting, social media and school email. So they need to understand that even when they delete a message or a post, it’s never truly gone for good. Their digital footprint will follow them throughout their life, so they need to be aware of how they communicate through technology. 

They also need to learn that communication will change depending on the platform and audience. The way they write texts shouldn’t be the same as the way they phrase a formative assessment answer.

Digital literacy

There are vast amounts of articles, videos, images, blogs and websites online. It can be overwhelming, and learners may click on sites and take information at face value. Teaching them how to evaluate online sources is essential as they continue to consume information. It’s also important for them to learn how to give proper credit to sources and content they use.

Digital etiquette

Digital etiquette is about using technology so that it doesn’t negatively affect others. This includes rules around cellphone use in class, engaging in online discussions and respecting others online. Your school should have rules about cyberbullying and what to do if a learner has faced cyberbullying.

Digital law 

This part of digital citizenship is related to internet laws and legal issues surrounding technology. Learners need to understand how those laws and issues can affect them so they don’t commit any crimes, minor or serious.

Digital rights and responsibility 

This element of digital citizenship covers learners’ rights and responsibilities online. Whether it’s regulations for specific online platforms or using school technology, learners should understand how these issues affect them. Schools should also focus on cyberbullying, protecting learners and how kids and teens can get help.

Digital health and wellness 

It’s pretty easy for any of us to mindlessly scroll online, but it can affect mental health and the ability to focus. Educators can help learners be aware of healthy ways of spending time online and finding balance. This should also include strategies for prioritizing when they should be online and use technology.

Digital security and privacy 

Kids and teens need to learn how to keep their information private online. They need to understand how to choose secure passwords, be mindful of what they’re sharing online and think about how their digital footprint follows them. They also need to be aware of malware attacks and how to prevent them so they can protect their school and personal devices.

Discover how a South Carolina school district supports SEL with browser monitoring

Watch the video to hear why Highlights helps educators like Kathryn combine monitoring with social and emotional learning.

How does Hāpara help schools teach the aspects of digital citizenship?

Hāpara offers classroom management tools that help you make digital citizenship a priority at your school.

Hāpara Highlights

Hāpara Highlights is an ethical screen monitoring tool that helps learners develop their digital citizenship skills. Educators get visibility into their students’ real-time progress during online learning and are able to see students’ Chrome browsing tabs. As a result, educators can start a digital citizenship conversation with the Highlights instant messaging feature. This allows them to check in with a learner, a group or the class. 

  • They can send a positive message such as, “Great job staying focused on the science activity.” 
  • They can provide support by asking, “I noticed that you aren’t on the right website. Do you need some help?” 
  • Or they can send a reminder such as, “Remember that we’re focusing on digital literacy. Is this a trusted source?”

Highlights also allows educators to quickly share links that open directly on learners’ devices for extra support. Educators can set up structured browsing experiences as well. Over time, as learners are able to make better digital choices, educators can give them more browsing independence.

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara is a K-12 web filter that empowers educators and learners. It uses real-time AI, which understands context on web pages that learners visit. Instead of needing to block a long list of websites or categories, technology administrators can keep more of the internet open for learning. The AI will blur or mute content on the page that learners shouldn’t be exposed to. 

On top of that, learners can practice their digital citizenship decision-making skills. If they come across a website that is blocked, and they believe it will help with a class activity, they can send their teacher an unblock request. The teacher will see the request immediately in email and Highlights. After reading the learner’s explanation and visiting the website, they can approve the request or deny it by giving a reason. If the request is denied, the learner will see the reason for keeping the website blocked.

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara’s student wellness feature will also help your school build a culture of digital citizenship. It sends your team real-time alerts related to cyberbullying. You’ll be able to intervene immediately and provide support.

Hāpara Card Talks

Alongside the teachable moments that Hāpara’s classroom management tools create, Hāpara Card Talks are the perfect way to start having conversations about digital citizenship. Use the student card decks in the classroom and the educator card decks during meetings or professional learning time. 

Select a card about a specific digital citizenship element or shuffle the deck and pick a card at random. Either way, you’ll be able to freely discuss topics with learners — or educators — and deepen their understanding of digital citizenship.

How do you make digital citizenship part of your school culture? Each of the nine digital citizenship elements are essential for helping learners make positive choices and contributions to the online world. With tools such as Highlights, Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara and Hāpara Card Talks, teaching digital citizenship is easier and empowers both educators and learners.

Learn what to focus on when building a culture of digital citizenship, including conversation starters for learners and educators!

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