Digital Citizenship is so much more

When we begun our class three months ago, I thought that digital citizenship entailed Image retrieved from Microsoft clipart gallerymaking sure kids knew about safety on the internet, copyright and “netiquette”.  Now, I understand that it encompasses so much more.  As Ribble, Bailey, & Ross state, “Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of behavior with regard to technology use.”  They break it down into 9 elements; etiquette, communication, education, access, commerce, responsibility, rights, safety and security. (2004, p.7)

As I reflect on what we have learned and discussed I have come to a few conclusions:


  • Although we need to start teaching our children as they begin to explore with technology, I think that grade 4-6 is the perfect age to really dialogue with students about digital citizenship.  They are really starting to show interest in communicating with each other, they are beginning to play more online games with each other and they are using the Internet more often for the work they are doing in classes.  According to Pacino & Noftle (2011), “The proliferation of social media networks requires learners to become savvy consumers of technology. As educators who prepare citizens for a global, digital age, we must find new ways of teaching in a world of digital, multimedia literacy” (p. 478).  This week in my class, I introduced my students to their “new” gmail accounts (our school board switched all student mail accounts recently to a google account).  They were so excited and many thanked me, because now they could sign up to play games, contact their friends, etc.  It is now my job to teach them “netiquette” and the “right” way to use this tool.


  •  Another area I know my students need information about is copyright and accessing other peoples thoughts, photos and ideas from websites and articles.  Students are already using images to make the backgrounds of their accounts more interesting; they often seek out and copy pictures to add to their presentations. Copyright law protects the creators of works.  Recently, the Canadian copyright laws were changed.  It has also created ‘fair dealing” rules.  (Copyright Matters, 2012)


  • Students have begun to bring more and more of their own mobile devices.  Our school board has created a wifi area that allows them to connect while at school.  Students have a better understanding of these devices because they are their own, they often take better care of them, and the practice allows schools to better provide resources for those students who do not have their own devices.  “The student who owns it typically invests time, thought and energy in customizing the device, in setting it up to optimize communication, productivity and learning. As a result, the student is typically quite proficient with the device and will use it anytime, anywhere to learn” (Alberta Education, 2012, p.5).  As teachers we need to make sure our students are well aware of the Acceptable Use Policies within our schools and how to keep their own devices safe while at school.


Digital Citizenship is a large topic, it doesn’t only apply to our middle school-aged students, but to everyone from young children using their parents phones and tablets to adults ranging all ages.  All of the stakeholders (children, parents, teachers) need to work together to ensure they are following general citizenship rules, as well as have an understanding of the risks and benefits of utilizing technology in their lives.




Alberta Education (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Retrieved from


CMEC (2012). Copyright matters. Retrived from 

Pacino, M. A., & Noftle, J. T. (2011). New literacies for global, digital learners. International Journal Of Learning, 18(1), 477-485.

 Ribble, M.S, Bailey, G.D, Ross, T.W., 2004, Digital Citizenship, Addressing Appropriate Technology Behaviour., Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1).

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One Response to Digital Citizenship is so much more

  1. Carole,
    I am not sure I agree with your statement that grade 4-6 is a good age to dialogue with students. I think the discussion about digital citizenship has to start much younger than that. As mentioned in a study for Consumer Reports WebWatch, “Even the very young go online. Children as young as 21⁄2 are being exposed to Internet content, either directly or by watching older siblings or parents. Two children of the 15 we observed in this study were under the age of 3.”

    Net Smart has created an interactive website specifically about online safety that is geared to 3-7 year old children. The “Early Surfers Zone,” has a whole series of resources for educators, parents, and caregivers of young children.

    I go back to Jason Ohler’s statement about children living two lives. He says, “The “two lives” perspective contends that our children should live a traditional educational life at school, much like their parents did, and a second, digital life outside school” (2010, p. 9). What are young children doing in their other life, outside school, that we do not know about? Can we assume young children are not going online? While some parents strictly control their child’s access to technology, many young children have ipods that they bring to school and use outside of their parent’s watchful eyes. Perhaps we should start by asking children what they are doing in their other life. This might help guide us in our teaching of digital citizenship.

    Buckleitner, W. (2008). Like taking candy from a baby: How young children interact in online environments. Consumer Reports WebWatch. Retrieved from

    Early Surfer’s Zone. (n.d.) Retrieved April, 14, 2013 from

    Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community Digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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