Three students practicing good digital citizenship.

6 steps to promote good digital citizenship for all students

Standing at the intersection of digital citizenship and responsible device usage, school districts can make a real difference in their students’ lives

By the time today’s digital natives enter high school, most of them have already been using devices, computers, the internet, and social media for years. They use these tools on their own terms and for their own reasons, many of which aren’t readily apparent to older adults who didn’t grow up with tablets and mobile phones in hand.

This usage presents unique challenges for educators who must not only teach a standard curriculum and help shepherd students into adulthood, but who must also help promote good digital citizenship both in and out of the classroom.

Whether this means posting on social media only content that they’d be okay with everyone seeing; not using profanity; using their devices responsibly and safely at all times; or following the rules and guidelines when using classroom forums, Instagram, or other sites; raising good digital citizens is as challenging as it is rewarding.

Here’s how we do it at our district.

Related: How to craft useful, student-centered social media policies

A 6-step digital citizenship plan

Step 1: Start with creating and implementing a Responsible Technology Use agreement.

We’re committed to helping our students use technology safely and responsibly, so our district implemented a Responsible Technology Use agreement. For our students, this means completing an annual digital-citizenship course within 30 days of enrollment in the district. We use a comprehensive program from CommonSense Media, where the lessons run 20-25 minutes in length and we administer them within our classroom labs, regular classrooms, or at home. The content is grade-specific (for us that’s grades 7-12) and features lessons designed to empower students to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.

Step 2: Focus on digital etiquette, respect, and safety.

Our digital citizenship courses teach our junior high and high school students how to respect themselves and others through digital etiquette, digital access, and digital-law lessons. The courses educate students and show them how to connect with others through digital literacy, digital communication, and digital commerce lessons. Finally, they teach students how to protect themselves and others through modules like digital rights and responsibilities, digital security, and digital health and wellness.

Step 3: Prepare students to leave the best #digitalfootprint in the digital world.

Whether they enter the workforce or college, we want our students to be well prepared for the world. And that means leaving a digital footprint that they can be proud of. We take this responsibility very seriously; we consider this our last chance to teach them before they graduate.

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