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Digital Citizenship in Schools

Digital Citizenship is important and needs to be taught alongside the curriculum in the classroom in order to prepare our students for the 21st-Century workforce.

Ribble defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible tech use.” (n.d.) on his website and Heick defines it as “the quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities” (2018). defines a digital citizen as “a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the Internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities”. My personal definition of digital citizenship is behaving in an appropriate manner in the digital world by treating others as you want to be treated.

It’s important as an educator to help our students become good citizens in the world and on the Internet especially since technology is a part of everyday life. Students can misbehave when left alone in the classroom, imagine the mischief they can get in when they are on a device without supervision. While students are learning to use technology in the classroom, teachers should teach digital citizenship along-side and within the curriculum and not just in a reactive situation but as a proactive activity before problems arise.

Ribble (2015) looked at Digital Citizenship and divided it into nine elements to make it easier to understand how expansive it is. These elements are digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security. He further categorizes them by how they impact the classroom; student learning and academic performance, school environment and student behavior, and student life outside the school environment. Within the categories they are classified by three principles; respect yourself and others, educate yourself and others, and protect yourself and others.

The category that directly affects student learning and academic performance contains the elements of digital access, digital literacy, and digital communication. In the respect yourself and others principle we have digital access that is defined as “full electronic participation in society” (Ribble, 2015, p. 24) which includes accessing the internet at home and school. Educating yourself and others is digital literacy which covers learning how to use technology and help others to use technology. Digital communication is also within the educating yourself and others principle and covers “the electronic exchange of information” (Ribble, 2015, p. 32). Since these elements are directly related to in class technology use, they are the first elements that need to be introduced to students.

School environment and student behavior contains digital etiquette, digital security, and digital rights and responsibilities. Digital etiquette is essentially treating others as you would like to be treated in the electronic world and part of the respecting yourself and others principle. Digital security is the process of keeping your information safe when navigating the internet and part of the protecting yourself and others principle along with digital rights and responsibility. Digital rights and responsibilities are defined as “the requirements and freedom extended to everyone in a digital world” (Ribble, 2015, p. 46). These elements are also important for students while using technology and should be covered before students begin to use the internet in a solo setting.

Student life outside the school environment covers digital commerce, digital law, and digital health and wellness. Respecting yourself and others includes digital law where students are aware of the legal ramifications of their actions. Educating yourself and others encompasses digital commerce where students learn how to shop online in a responsible way. Protecting yourself and others covers digital health and wellness which is using technology in an ergonomically way to avoid injuries along with knowing how to limit the amount of time you spend on devices to avoid addictions. Since these are used in the classroom the least yet equally important, they must also be taught and modeled in the classroom.

Together, the nine elements encompass digital citizenship and broken down into bite-sized pieces to make it easier to teach. Personally, I feel digital security and digital etiquette would be the most important elements to teach my students so they were safe and nice to each other while navigating the Internet.


Heick, T. (2018). Definition of digital citizenship. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. Digital Citizenship Consulting - Education, Technology Support. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools, Third edition. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

the definition of digital citizen. Retrieved from


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