What is a Digital Citizen?

The question posed is, is there a difference between citizenship and digital citizenship? We teach civic and government lessons in our high school curriculum's; however, there is little or no instruction on digital citizenship. School districts, such as mine, are just now addressing as to how much we should be teaching our students about digital citizenship. There is discussion on whether we even need to teach digital citizenship in school. Russo (2017) states that separating digital citizenship and citizenship is like creating a Jim Crowe law. He goes on to state that they should be considered one and the same if we expect participants in politics and finance skills to utilize the skills of digital citizenship.


They need to be one and the same. As we teach civics, digital citizenship is now a key factor as children as young as four years old now access the Internet on a regular basis. employers as well as higher education regards a potential employee or students’ values from their posts on social media. Jobs and scholarships have been denied because of social media posts; therefore, teaching digital citizenship to students needs to be a vital element of education.


Each of the nine elements of digital citizenship are essential in being a digital citizen. removing or ignoring any one element defeats their purpose. They identify “a way of understanding the complexity of digital citizenship and the issues of technology use, abuse, and misuse…” (Ribble, 2015). Yet the one element that I feel students lack the most is digital etiquette. Many students lack even civic etiquette, much less digital etiquette. What used to be taught in the home is now expected to be taught in the school.


Ribble (2015) discusses that digital citizenship is not new, yet previous versions and definitions did not consider how students should act and who would teach them. He proposed nine elements and then grouped them into three principles and three categories which interrelated the nine elements in various ways.

The nine elements defined, are to help educate the educators who in turn, will educate their students. The 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.


Digital access is ensuring that all users have full access to digital technology, which in an ideal world, would d be everyone.Digital commerce is the ability of users to buy and sell goods on-line, in a responsible and legal nature.Digital communication is the ability of users to access various types of social media and behave in a safe and appropriate manner.Digital literacy is being able to use and understand technology, both hardware and software and being able to share this knowledge to others.Digital etiquette is how users should conduct themselves when accessing digital technologies.Digital law is about ensuring that users recognized legal rights to material on the various digital media and respect those rights.Digital rights and responsibilities are about the freedoms and rights extended to everyone and the protection of those rights.Digital health and wellness are about the physical and psychological health of users in the digital world.Digital security is about users taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and those of other users.


The nine elements are categorized into three sets of principles into a type of Venn diagram to show how they coincide and build on each other. In the inner most circle is student leadership and academic performance. This consists of digital literacy, digital communication, and digital access. The middle circle which includes the inner circle is school environment and student behavior. This circle consists of digital etiquette, digital, rights and responsibilities, and digital security. The outermost circle which encompasses the middle and innermost circle is student life outside the school environment. This consists of digital commerce, digital law, and digital health and wellness.


The nine elements are also grouped into three categories, respect, educate and protect (REP). Respect yourself and others consists of digital etiquette, digital access, and digital law. Educate yourself and others consists of digital literacy, digital communications, and digital commerce. Each element stands alone with a specific purpose; however, they all intertwine to form the necessary cohesion of the elements towards being a digital citizenship.


Curran, M. (2012, June). iCitizen: Are you a socially responsible digital citizen. Paper presented at the International Society for Technology Education Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX. Retrieved from (PDF: icitizen_paper_M_Curran.pdf )


Heick, T. (2018). The definition of digital citizenship. Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship/


Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 77(8), 14-17. (PDF: Ohler_Digital_citizenship_means_character_education_2012.pdf)


Polgar, D. R., & Curran, M. B.F.X. (2015). We shouldn't assume people know what digital citizenship is. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/technology/we-shouldnt-assume-people-know-what-digital-citizenship-is/


Riddle, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, Oregon: International Society for Technology in Education.


University of Florida (n.d.). Why should you love squirrels? Retrieved from https://news.ufl.edu/media/newsufledu/images/2018/01/Squirrel-Square.jpg

1 view

©2018 by Luis San Román. Proudly created with Wix.com