Creating a Successful School Digital Citizenship Plan

by Katie Ball — on  ,  ,  , 


What is Digital Citizenship?

Advances in technology have caused a huge problem in areas of education dealing with copyright laws; in response, educators are implementing programs designed to teach students about digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship in schools was designed to educate students of all ages about their responsibilities to a digital society. When a person becomes a citizen of a nation whether by birth or immigration, they agree to adhere to the rules and regulation set forth by the government or pay a penalty. Simple rules are set in place to protect people’s property, heath, and rights. Digital citizenship works in much the same way.

Digital citizenship in schools has been discussed for years, but recently in June 2010, the Online Safety Working Group sent a letter to Congress entitled Youth Safety on a Living Internet. In this report, the Internet is declared “a living thing” in its form and function. Because of this, it grows and changes, so society must be prepared for these changes and know how to steward what has been given. They decided that the job of promoting online safety should fall to the education system because they have the greatest access to computers and other digital media.That being done, teaching students about digital citizenship in schools is now a requirement in school districts across the nation.

Elements to Create Plan

So what are the needed elements in order to implement a digital citizenship plan? A better question is probably “Where do we start?” With all the media outlets available today, this subject is difficult to address. It is usually better to assume that everything needs to be included.

A good focus question would be to ask an adult and a student how they use technology on a daily basis. By gathering information about technological use, you are better equipped to come up with a plan. These plans need to cover all areas of technology.

Computer and Internet use will obviously be a major topic for discussion with all that is available out there. Students need to know how to properly find information on websites, which websites are reliable, and how to cite their source information. These things cannot be assumed knowledge; a majority of students do now know how to do proper work citations when they enter college. They need to know the gravity of violating copyright laws when it comes to published works of all kinds. Most students do not believe that they will ever get caught plagiarizing, so they need to have a reason not to that is foundation to them.

Finding Lesson Plans

There are many resources available to help teachers and school districts make digital citizenship agreements and lesson plans. A great place to start is by going to and looking at their free online lesson plans. These lesson plans provide activities that give students choices and opportunities to explore real-life scenarios that they may find themselves in one day. It would also be a good idea to download a 21st Century Digital Compass and go through its contents with your students. These resources are easy to find and an invaluable source of information and protection for your students and your school.

Developing a Contract

The main component of becoming digital citizens is the implementation of a contract that must be signed by the student and the parent/guardian of that student before they are allowed any access to digital media of any kind on school grounds. This will protect everyone in the case of misuse of the privilege of living in a digital world. Students will be accountable to their signatures on that contract and their digital citizenship and all the rights and privileges will be realized to a higher degree.

A digital world has changed the face of education, so it is important that school create a world of healthy digital citizens.